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Jones v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 26, 2017

VIRGIE JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ALICIA G. ROSENBERG United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff filed this action on December 8, 2016. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge. (Dkt. Nos. 11, 12.) On July 13, 2017, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation (“JS”) that addressed the disputed issues. The court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

         Having reviewed the entire file, the court reverses the decision of the Commissioner and remands for further proceedings at step five of the sequential analysis.

         I.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Jones filed an application for disability insurance benefits on April 2, 2012 and an application for supplemental security income benefits on July 12, 2012. Administrative Record (“AR”) 106. In both applications, she alleged an onset date of April 1, 2012. AR 24. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 83, 84, 101, 102. Jones requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On July 10, 2014, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Jones and a vocational expert testified. AR 44-55. The ALJ issued a decision denying benefits on July 25, 2014. AR 103-112.

         On March 26, 2015, the Appeals Council granted the request for review, vacated the decision and remanded for (1) a determination at step five of the sequential analysis; (2) evaluation and rating of Jones' mental impairment; (3) reconsideration of Jones' residual functional capacity; and (4) supplemental evidence from a vocational expert. AR 117-120.

         On September 24, 2015, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Jones and a vocational expert testified. AR 56-68. On October 20, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 24-31. On November 22, 2016, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-5. This action followed.

         II.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence, or if it is based upon the application of improper legal standards. Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

         “Substantial evidence” means “more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance - it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion.” Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523. In determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the court examines the administrative record as a whole, considering adverse as well as supporting evidence. Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must defer to the Commissioner's decision. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

         III.

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