United States District Court, E.D. California
DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
social security action was submitted to the court without
oral argument for ruling on plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment and defendant's cross-motion for summary
judgment.Plaintiff's motion argues that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) failed to
properly credit a treating physician's opinion and
erroneously rejected plaintiff's statements regarding her
pain and functional limitations. For the reasons explained
below, plaintiff's motion is granted, the decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
is reversed, and the matter is remanded for the payment of
January 31, 2014, plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”) alleging disability
beginning on July 31, 2013. (Transcript (“Tr.”)
at 21, 196-202.) Plaintiff's alleged impairments included
cervical spine injury; status post fusion surgery to C4 to C6
with pending surgery; chronic pain in the neck and shoulders;
inability to sit for a prolonged period of time; difficulty
with lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, and reaching;
difficulty performing activities of daily living without
pain; limited range of motion with pain in the neck;
difficulty with sleep due to pain; incapability of rotating
or tilting head without pain; and right shoulder pain status
post-surgery. (Id. at 230.) Plaintiff's
application was denied initially, (id. at 110-113),
and upon reconsideration. (Id. at 117-121.)
plaintiff requested a hearing and a hearing was held before
an ALJ on July 12, 2016. (Id. at 41-79.) Plaintiff
was represented by an attorney and testified at the
administrative hearing. (Id. at 44-79.) In a
decision issued on September 13, 2016, the ALJ found that
plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 29.) The ALJ
entered the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2019.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 31, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: status
post posterior C5-6 fusion and instrumentation for
pseudoarthrosis; chronic right shoulder dysfunction, status
post surgery; and left shoulder overuse dysfunction (20 CFR
4. The claimant 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 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in
20 CFR 404.1567(a) with the following exceptions: the
claimant is not able to perform any lifting over ten pounds;
is never able to perform overhead lifting; and must take a
five-minute break every hour.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as an office technician. This work does not require the
performance of work-related activities precluded by the
claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from July 31, 2013 through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).
(Id. at 23-29.)
November 21, 2017, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review of the ALJ's September 13, 2016
decision. (Id. at 1-4.) Plaintiff sought judicial
review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the
complaint in this action on January 22, 2018. (ECF No. 2.)
district court reviews the Commissioner's final decision
for substantial evidence, and the Commissioner's decision
will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial
evidence or is based on legal error.” Hill v.
Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1158-59 (9th Cir. 2012).
Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Osenbrock v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1157, 1162
(9th Cir. 2001); Sandgathe v. Chater, 108 F.3d 978,
980 (9th Cir. 1997).
reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole
and may not affirm simply by isolating a ‘specific
quantum of supporting evidence.'” Robbins v.
Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)
(quoting Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th
Cir. 1989)). If, however, “the record considered as a
whole can reasonably support either affirming or reversing
the Commissioner's decision, we must affirm.”
McCartey v. Massanari, 298 F.3d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir.
five-step evaluation process is used to determine whether a
claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; see also
Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). The
five-step process has been summarized as follows:
Step one: Is the claimant engaging in substantial gainful
activity? If so, the claimant is found not disabled. If not,
proceed to step two.
Step two: Does the claimant have a “severe”
impairment? If so, proceed to step three. If not, then a
finding of not disabled is appropriate.
Step three: Does the claimant's impairment or combination
of impairments meet or equal an impairment listed in 20
C.F.R., Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1? If so, the claimant is
automatically determined disabled. If not, proceed to step
Step four: Is the claimant capable of performing his past
work? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, proceed to
Step five: Does the claimant have the residual functional
capacity to perform any other work? If so, the claimant is
not disabled. ...