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Boisclaire v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 17, 2019

ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security,[1] Defendant.



         This 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.[2]Plaintiff’s motion argues that the Administrative Law Judge erred by finding that plaintiff did not meet a Listing Impairment and by improperly rejecting medical opinion evidence.

         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 further proceedings consistent with this order.


         On May 7, 2014, plaintiff filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”) alleging disability beginning on October 31, 2000. (Transcript (“Tr.”) at 21, 125, 257-58.) On April 15, 2014, plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act also alleging disability beginning on October 31, 2000. (Transcript (“Tr.”) at 21, 257-65.) Plaintiff’s alleged impairments included depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ankle arthritis. (Id. at 110.) Plaintiff’s applications were denied initially, (id. at 167-71, 173-77), and upon reconsideration. (Id. at 182-87.)

         Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing and a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on January 25, 2017. (Id. at 36-109.) Plaintiff was represented by an attorney and testified at the administrative hearing. (Id. at 36-38.) In a decision issued on May 12, 2017, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 30.) The ALJ entered the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2007.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 31, 2000, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, and status-post left ankle fracture. (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except she can occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. She can frequently climb ramps and stairs. The work should require only occasional interaction with the public, co-workers and supervisors. The work should require only occasional supervision, defined as requiring a supervisor’s critical checking of the person’s work. The work is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks in a work environment with only occasional production rate or pace work. The work should involve only simple, work-related decisions with few, if any, changes in the work place.
6. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born [in] 1973 and was 26 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is “not disabled,” whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant’s age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from October 31, 2000, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

(Id. at 23-30.)

         On April 17, 2018, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s request for review of the ALJ’s May 12, 2017 decision. (Id. at 1-5.) Plaintiff sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by filing the complaint in this action on June 18, 2018. (ECF. No. 1.)


         “The 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).

         “[A] 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 ...

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