United States District Court, E.D. California
FREDRICK W. BOYKIN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER REVERSING THE AGENCY'S DENIAL OF BENEFITS
AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
S. AUSTIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Fredrick W. Boykin (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner” or
“Defendant”) denying his applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Social Security Income (“SSI”)
Benefits pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security
Act. (Doc. 1 and 18). The Commissioner filed an opposition.
(Doc. 19). Plaintiff filed a reply. (Doc. 20). The matter is
currently before the Court on the parties' briefs which
were submitted without oral argument to the Honorable Gary S.
Austin, United States Magistrate Judge. After reviewing
the administrative record and the pleadings, the Court GRANTS
Plaintiff's appeal IN PART. The case is remanded for
further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
BACKGROUND AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS
filed applications for DIB and SSI on July 29, 2013, alleging
a disability beginning July 1, 2008. AR 12; 137-152. His
application was denied on October 11, 2013. AR 24; 92-96.
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”). AR 11; 100-103. ALJ Christopher
Inama conducted a hearing on August 20, 2014 (AR 38-66), and
published an unfavorable decision on November 25, 2014. AR
21-30. Plaintiff filed an appeal on January 23, 2015. AR
16-20. The Appeals Council denied the request for review on
April 18, 2016, rendering the order the final decision of the
Commissioner. AR 1-8.
THE DISABILITY DETERMINATION PROCESS
qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act, a
plaintiff must establish that he or she is unable to engage
in substantial gainful activity due to a medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or
can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less
than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). An
individual shall be considered to have a disability only if:
. . . his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of
such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous
work, but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
achieve uniformity in the decision-making process, the
Commissioner has established a sequential five-step process
for evaluating a claimant's alleged disability. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)-(f), 416.920(a)-(f). The ALJ
proceeds through the steps and stops upon reaching a
dispositive finding that the claimant is or is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The ALJ
must consider objective medical evidence and opinion
testimony. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527, 404.1529,
the ALJ is required to determine: (1) whether a claimant
engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period of
alleged disability, (2) whether the claimant had
medically-determinable “severe” impairments, (3)
whether these impairments meet or are medically equivalent to
one of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. §
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, (4) whether the claimant retained
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform his past relevant work, and (5) whether the claimant
had the ability to perform other jobs existing in significant
numbers at the regional and national level. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)-(f), 416.920(a)-(f).
THE ISSUE PRESENTED
explained in more detail below, both parties agree that the
ALJ committed error in this case. The issue is whether the
case should be remanded for an award of benefits, or remanded
for further proceedings.
filed for disability due to arthritis in his knees,
shoulders, and back which limited his ability to stand and
walk. AR 47-53; 174. Using the five step evaluation outlined
above, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30,
2015, and that he had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 1, 2008, the alleged onset date. AR 26.
He also identified bilateral knee osteoarthritis - with the
left side worse than the right - as a severe impairment, but
found that this impairment did not meet one of the listing
impairments. AR 26. The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff
had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work except that he could stand no more than
four hours in an eight hour day; he could occasionally climb
ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl;
but he could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The
ALJ further found Plaintiff could occasionally reach and
frequently handle and finger with his non-dominant upper
extremity; occasionally reach with his left, non-dominant
upper extremity; but had no manipulative ...