United States District Court, E.D. California
DENICE L. TARKINGTON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER REMANDING THE ACTION PURSUANT TO SENTENCE FOUR
OF 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) ORDER DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT
IN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF DENICE L. TARKINGTON AND AGAINST
DEFENDANT NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Tarkington asserts she is entitled to a period of disability,
disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security
income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act.
Plaintiff argues the administrative law judge erred in
evaluating the medical record and seeks judicial review of
the decision to deny her application for benefits. Because
the ALJ erred in rejecting limitations identified by
Plaintiff's treating physician, the matter is
REMANDED for further proceedings pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
and June 2014, Plaintiff filed applications for benefits,
alleging “disability beginning September 8,
2012.” (Doc. 9-8 at 2-4) Plaintiff reported she had
“limited reach in [her] left arm as well as strength,
” and that her hands “both have carpal
tunnel.” (Doc. 9-9 at 49) Plaintiff also indicated that
she had degenerative disc disease in her back, which affected
her ability to walk, stand, and sit “for more then
(sic) 10 to 15 minutes at a time.” (Id.)
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's
applications for benefits at the initial level and upon
reconsideration. (Doc. 9-3 at 18) Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, at which she testified before an ALJ
on July 27, 2016. (Id.) The ALJ concluded Plaintiff
was not disabled and issued an order denying benefits on
September 2, 2016. (Id. at 18-32) The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the
decision on November 10, 2016. (Id. at 2-4)
Therefore, the ALJ's determination became the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
courts have a limited scope of judicial review for disability
claims after a decision by the Commissioner to deny benefits
under the Social Security Act. When reviewing findings of
fact, such as whether a claimant was disabled, the Court must
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The ALJ's determination that the
claimant is not disabled must be upheld by the Court if the
proper legal standards were applied and the findings are
supported by substantial evidence. See Sanchez v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Serv., 812 F.2d 509, 510
(9th Cir. 1987).
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol.
Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197 (1938)). The record as
a whole must be considered, because “[t]he court must
consider both evidence that supports and evidence that
detracts from the ALJ's conclusion.” Jones v.
Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985).
qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act, Plaintiff
must establish 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 12 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). The burden of proof is on a
claimant to establish disability. Terry v. Sullivan,
903 F.2d 1273, 1275 (9th Cir. 1990). If a claimant
establishes a prima facie case of disability, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner to prove the claimant is able to
engage in other substantial gainful employment. Maounois
v. Heckler, 738 F.2d 1032, 1034 (9th Cir. 1984).
achieve uniform decisions, the Commissioner established a
sequential five-step process for evaluating a claimant's
alleged disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
416.920(a)-(f). The process requires the ALJ to determine
whether Plaintiff (1) engaged in substantial gainful activity
during the period of alleged disability, (2) had medically
determinable severe impairments (3) that met or equaled one
of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1; and whether Plaintiff (4) had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
to past relevant work or (5) the ability to perform other
work existing in significant numbers at the state and
national level. Id. The ALJ must consider
testimonial and objective medical evidence. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1527, 416.927.
Relevant Medical Opinions
Samuel Rush performed a complete internal medicine evaluation
on August 19, 2014, at which Plaintiff said she had
“problems with her left shoulder and back.” (Doc.
9-14 at 75) Dr. Rush noted he did not have medical records to
review, but Plaintiff reported being “told she has
degenerative disc disease.” (Id.) Dr. Rush
observed that Plaintiff “walk[ed] slowly and stiffly
due to back discomfort and limitation, ” but was
“able to walk on [her] toes and … heels.”
(Id. at 78) Dr. Rush found Plaintiff's motor
strength was “5/5 in the upper extremities and 4/5 in
the lower extremities, ” and her senses were
“[n]ormal to touch, temperature and pinprick.”
(Id.) According to Dr. Rush, Plaintiff was
“quite limited in her range of motion in her
back” and had “[l]imitation of movement of the
left shoulder.” (Id.) Dr. Rush opined
Plaintiff was “limited to [lifting and carrying] 20
pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, ” and
“cannot reach above should level on the left.”
(Id. at 78-79) He also determined Plaintiff had
postural limitations and could ...