United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. STANDISH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Johnny Robert Vaile (“Plaintiff”) filed a
complaint seeking review of Defendant Commissioner of Social
Security's (“Commissioner”) denial of his
application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). The parties filed consents to proceed
before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge [Dkts.
11, 12] and briefs addressing disputed issues in the case
[Dkt. 19 (“Pltf.'s Br.”), Dkt. 28
(“Def.'s Br.”), and Dkt. 30 (Pltf.'s
Reply”).] The Court has taken the parties' briefing
under submission without oral argument. For the reasons
discussed below, the Court finds that this matter should be
remanded for further proceedings.
ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION UNDER REVIEW
February 29, 2012, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and
SSI, alleging that he became disabled as of April 19, 2006.
[Dkt. 15, Administrative Record (“AR”) 34.] The
Commissioner denied his initial claim for benefits and then
denied his claim upon reconsideration. [AR 73-106; 107-138;
139-143; 152-156.] On October 29, 2013, a hearing was held
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Nancy M.
Stewart. [AR 48-72.] On February 20, 2014, the ALJ issued a
decision denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. [AR
29-47.] Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council,
which denied review on January 15, 2016. [AR 1-7.]
the five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff was not disabled. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b)-(g)(1) 416.920(b)-(g)(1). At step
one, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since April 19, 2006, the
alleged onset date, through March 31, 2010, his date last
insured. [AR 34.] At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative
disc disease of the spine; mood disorder; and mild obesity.
[AR 34 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and
416.920(c).] Next, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets
or medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments. [AR 34-35 (citing 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525,
404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).]
found that Plaintiff had the following residual functional
[L]ight work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(c)
except the claimant can occasionally can [sic] lift and/or
carry 20 pounds and 10 [pounds] frequently; the claimant can
push and/or pull within these weight limits but on an
occasionally [sic] basis as to the lower extremities; the
claimant can stand and/or walk 4 hours in an 8-hour workday
with no prolonged walking greater than 30 minutes at a time;
the claimant can sit for 6 hours of an 8-hour workday with
the ability to stand and/or stretch for one minute at the end
of each hour, not to exceed 10% of the day; the claimant
cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; the claimant can
occasionally climb ramps or stairs, stoop, bend, kneel,
crouch, or crawl; he is precluded from working on hazards
such as working at unprotected heights, operating dangerous
or fast machinery, or driving commercial vehicles; the
claimant is limited to unskilled, simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks the claimant can have occasional public
contact and occasional intermittent contact with co-workers
[AR 36.] Applying this RFC, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had no past relevant work, but determined that
based on his age (41 years old), limited education, and
ability to communicate in English, he could perform
representative occupations such as production solderer
(Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”)
813.684-022), electronics worker (DOT 726.687-010), and
sewing machine operator (DOT 786.682-026) and, thus, is not
disabled. [AR 41-42.]
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court reviews the
Commissioner's decision to determine if: (1) the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence; and (2) the Commissioner used correct legal
standards. See Carmickle v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai
v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007).
Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971) (internal citation and quotations omitted);
see also Hoopai, 499 F.3d at 1074.
the Appeals Council considered additional evidence but denied
review, the additional evidence becomes part of the record
for purposes of the Court's analysis. See Brewes v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1163 (9th
Cir. 2012) (“[W]hen the Appeals Council considers new
evidence in deciding whether to review a decision of the ALJ,
that evidence becomes part of the administrative record,
which the district court must consider when reviewing the
Commissioner's final decision for substantial
evidence”; expressly adopting Ramirez v.
Shalala, 8 F.3d 1449, 1452 (9th Cir. 1993)); Taylor
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin. 659 F.3d 1228, 1231
(2011) (courts may consider evidence presented for the first
time to the Appeals Council “to determine whether, in
light of the record as a whole, the ALJ's decision was
supported by substantial evidence and was free of legal
error”); Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 957
n.7 (9th Cir. 1993) (“the Appeals Council considered
this information and it became part of the record we are
required to review as a whole”).
The New Medical Evidence Submitted To The Appeals Council
Renders the ALJ's Decision ...