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Wilson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 9, 2017

SHER ANN WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROZELLA A. OLIVER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Sherl Ann Wilson (“Plaintiff”) challenges the Commissioner's denial of her application for a period of disability and supplemental security income (“SSI”). For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and REMANDED.

         II. PROCEEDINGS BELOW

         On December 31, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging disability beginning November 30, 2010. (Administrative Record (“AR”) 147.) Her application was denied initially on June 12, 2013, and upon reconsideration on November 6, 2013. (AR 86, 101.) On May 15, 2015, Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing, and a hearing was held on February 12, 2015. (AR 7, 31.) Represented by counsel, Plaintiff appeared and testified, along with a medical expert and an impartial vocational expert. (AR 33-49.) On March 31, 2015, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, pursuant to the Social Security Act, [1] since December 31, 2012. (AR 16-26.) The ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (AR 1-4.) Plaintiff filed this action on December 5, 2016. (Dkt. No. 1.)

         The ALJ followed a five-step sequential evaluation process to assess whether Plaintiff was disabled under the Social Security Act. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 828 n.5 (9th Cir. 1995). At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 31, 2012, the application date. (AR 18.) At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, anxiety, and substance abuse. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff “does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.” (AR 20.)

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:

[P]erform a full range of work at all exertion levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: can understand and remember tasks; can sustain concentration and persistence; can socially interact with co-workers and supervisors; and can adapt to workplace changes frequently enough to perform unskilled, low stress jobs that require simple instructions, but should avoid jobs requiring interaction with the general public.

(AR 21.)

         At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has no past relevant work. (AR 25.) At step five, “[c]onsidering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, ” the ALJ found that “there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform.” (Id.) Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not been under a disability since the application date. (AR 26.)

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a district court may review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. A court must affirm an ALJ's findings of fact if they are supported by substantial evidence, and if the proper legal standards were applied. Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 458-59 (9th Cir. 2001). “‘Substantial evidence' means more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). An ALJ can satisfy the substantial evidence requirement “by setting out a detailed and thorough summary of the facts and conflicting clinical evidence, stating his interpretation thereof, and making findings.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 725 (9th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted).

         “[T]he Commissioner's decision cannot be affirmed simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence. Rather, a court must consider the record as a whole, weighing both evidence that supports and evidence that detracts from the Secretary's conclusion.” Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1035 (9th Cir. 2001) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “‘Where evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, ' the ALJ's decision should be upheld.” Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005)); see Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882 (“If the evidence can support either affirming or reversing the ALJ's conclusion, we may not substitute our judgment for that of the ALJ.”). The Court may review only “the reasons provided by the ALJ in the disability determination and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not rely.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 874 (9th Cir. 2003)).

         IV. ...


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