United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
SUZANNE H. SEGAL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Christopher Keller (“Plaintiff”) seeks review of
the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (the “Commissioner” or
“Agency”) denying his application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The parties
consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the
jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the
Commissioner is REVERSED and REMANDED for further
filed an application for Title II DIB on July 22, 2013.
(Administrative Record (“AR”) 144-45). In the
application, Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of
January 1, 2012. (AR 144). The Agency denied Plaintiff's
application initially on October 21, 2013. (AR 90-101,
98-101). On December 7, 2013, Plaintiff requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (AR
109-10). Plaintiff testified before the ALJ, John D. Moreen,
on October 21, 2014. (AR 44, 48-81). On October 31, 2014, the
ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff benefits. (AR 19-40).
Plaintiff timely requested review of the ALJ's decision,
which the Appeals Council denied on May 19, 2016. (AR 1-4).
Plaintiff filed the instant action on July 10, 2016.
was born on February 13, 1955. (AR 48, 144). Plaintiff was 56
years old at the time of his alleged disability onset date of
January 1, 2012 (AR 117), and 59 years old at the time of his
hearing before the ALJ (AR 35, 48). Plaintiff completed more
than four years of college and earned degrees in history and
management/business administration. (AR 48, 158). Plaintiff
worked in the past as a claims adjuster (AR 57, 174),
security guard (AR 54, 174, 181), and private investigator
(AR 55). With the exception of working one day in 2010,
Plaintiff has not worked since December 31, 2008. (AR 49,
61). Plaintiff alleges disability due to anxiety, high blood
sugar, sciatica, morbid obesity/metabolic syndrome,
depression, carpal tunnel/tendonitis, pre-diabetes, and back
pain. (AR 157).
Vocational Expert's Testimony
Expert (“VE”) Jane Hale testified at
Plaintiff's hearing on October 21, 2014. (AR 81-86). The
ALJ asked the VE whether a hypothetical individual with
Plaintiff's characteristics and the limitation of
occasional contact with others could perform Plaintiff's
past work as a security guard. (AR 82). The VE testified that
this hypothetical person's characteristics and
limitations would “still allow the security guard job,
” but the limitation “may [erode] the labor
market.” (AR 83). The VE explained that because the
hypothetical person “would be limited to taking
assignments that were away from the public, ” the
security guard job market would be eroded by “at
least” 50 percent. (AR 83).
the VE testified about job erosion, the ALJ asked whether the
VE's testimony was in conformance with the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (“DOT”). (AR 83). The VE
answered by stating “Yes.” (AR 83).
THE FIVE-STEP SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must demonstrate
a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that
prevents the claimant from engaging in substantial gainful
activity and that is expected to result in death or to last
for a continuous period of at least twelve months. Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 721 (9th Cir. 1998) (citing 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A)). The impairment must render the claimant
incapable of performing the work she previously performed and
incapable of performing any other substantial gainful
employment that exists in the national economy. Tackett v.
Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing 42 U.S.C.
decide if a claimant is entitled to benefits, an ALJ conducts
a five-step inquiry. 20 C.F.R. §§ ...