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 argues that the Administrative
Law Judge improperly rejected plaintiff's subjective
testimony and erroneously determined that plaintiff could
perform past relevant work. For the reasons explained below,
plaintiff's motion is granted in part, the decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) is reversed, and the matter is
remanded for further proceedings consistent with this order.
December of 2014, plaintiff filed applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act (“the Act”) and for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Act alleging disability beginning on January 1,
2012. (Transcript (“Tr.”) at 13,
86-87, 346-55.) Plaintiff's alleged impairments included
a back injury, heart condition, seizures, diabetes, and high
blood pressure. (Id. at 115.) Plaintiff's
applications were denied initially, (id. at 43-47),
and upon reconsideration. (Id. at 49-53.)
plaintiff requested a hearing which was held before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on December 7,
2016. (Id. at 472-507.) Plaintiff was represented by
an attorney and testified at the administrative hearing.
(Id. at 473-74.) In a decision issued on March 21,
2017, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled.
(Id. at 21.) The ALJ entered the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through September 30, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 1, 2014, the amended alleged onset date
(20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine;
tendinitis of the right shoulder; diabetes; and a history of
heart disease and peripheral artery disease status post stent
placements in the left lower extremity (20 CFR 404.1520(c)
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, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform work activities with the
following limitations: she can lift and carry 10 pounds
frequently and 20 pounds occasionally. She can sit for 6
hours in an 8-hour workday. She can stand and/or walk for 6
hours in an 8-hour workday. She is precluded from climbing
ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. She is limited to no more than
occasional climbing of ramps and stairs. She is limited to no
more than occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and crawling. She is limited to no more than
frequent overhead reaching with the right upper extremity.
She requires the ability to briefly change positions from
sitting to standing and vice versa every 30 minutes, but she
is able to remain at the work station while doing so.
6. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work
as an Insurance Clerk (DOT 219.367-014; sedentary exertional
level; performed by the claimant at the sedentary exertional
level; semiskilled; Specific Vocational Preparation level
(SVP) 4). This work does not require the performance of
work-related activities precluded by the claimant's
residual functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from July 1, 2014, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(f) and 416.920(f)).
(Id. at 15-21.)
February 7, 2018, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review of the ALJ's March 21, 2017 decision.
(Id. at 6-10.) Plaintiff sought judicial review
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the complaint
in this action on February 24, 2018. (ECF No. 1.)
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, ...