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 erred by improperly rejecting
plaintiff’s testimony and medical opinion evidence. 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
January of 2015, plaintiff filed an application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”)
alleging disability beginning on September 9, 2010.
(Transcript (“Tr.”) at 15, 154-55.)
Plaintiff’s alleged impairments included lumbar spine
surgery, chronic pain, and difficulty with postural
activities. (Id. at 189.) Plaintiff’s
application was denied initially, (id. at 79-83),
and upon reconsideration. (Id. at 86-90.)
plaintiff requested a hearing and a hearing was held before
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on December
14, 2016. (Id. at 28-46.) Plaintiff was represented
by an attorney and testified at the administrative hearing.
(Id. at 28-30.) In a decision issued on February 27,
2017, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled.
(Id. at 23.) The ALJ entered the following findings:
1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act on March 31, 2016.
2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful
activity during the period from her alleged onset date of
September 9, 2010 through her date last insured of March 31,
2016 (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the
following severe impairment: degenerative disc disease (20
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled 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, I find
that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the
residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except she was able to
stand/walk for 2 hours in an 8hour day for 15 minutes at a
time before needing to sit; sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour day;
occasionally push/pull with the left lower extremity;
occasionally bend, stoop, crawl, kneel, crouch or climb
stairs. She was to avoid hazards such as unprotected heights
and moving machinery.
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant was capable of
performing past relevant work as a dispatcher. This work did
not require the performance of work-related activities
precluded by the claimant’s residual functional
capacity (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. In the alternative, considering the claimant’s age,
education, work experience, and residual functional capacity,
there were other jobs that existed in significant numbers in
the national economy that the claimant also could have
performed (20 CFR 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)).
8. The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, at any time from September 9, 2010, the
alleged onset date, through March 31, 2016, the date last
insured (20 CFR 404.1520(f)).
(Id. at 17-23.)
January 5, 2018, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s
request for review of the ALJ’s February 27, 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 March 5, 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, proceed to
Step five: Does the claimant have the residual functional
capacity to perform any other work? If so, the claimant is
not disabled. ...