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
witness testimony and by finding that plaintiff did not meet
a Listing Impairment.
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.
January of 2015, 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,
2014. (Transcript (“Tr.”) at 19, 221-22, 224-28.)
Plaintiff’s alleged impairments included major
depressive disorder with psychotic features and
schizophrenia. (Id. at 253.) Plaintiff’s
applications were denied initially, (id. at 123-27,
129-33), and upon reconsideration. (Id. at 138-42,
requested an administrative hearing and a hearing was held
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on
December 22, 2016. (Id. at 38-72.) Plaintiff was
represented by an attorney and testified at the
administrative hearing. (Id. at 38-40.) In a
decision issued on April 7, 2017, the ALJ found that
plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at 32.) The ALJ
entered the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through June 30, 2014.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since January 1, 2014, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
depression; ADHD; paranoid schizophrenia (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, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following non-exertional limitations: he can
exercise only simple work-related judgments; he can handle no
more than occasionally (sic) changes to the routine work
setting; he can perform routine, repetitive working (sic) a
stable environment; he cannot be expected to work as a member
of a team, but is capable of being in the same work
environment with coworkers; he can occasionally interact with
coworkers and supervisors; he can have no interaction with
the public; he cannot be expected to engage in independent
planning and goal setting but can understand, remember and
carry out fixed plans and goals when performing routine and
6. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565
7. The claimant was born [in] 1992 and was 21 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 an issue because the
claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1568
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 January 1, 2014, through the
date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
(Id. at 22-31.)
March 12, 2018, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s
request for review of the ALJ’s April 7, 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 May 15, 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. If not, the claimant is disabled.
Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 828 n.5 (9th Cir.
claimant bears the burden of proof in the first four steps of
the sequential evaluation process. Bowen v. Yuckert,
482 U.S. 137, 146 n. 5 (1987). The Commissioner bears the
burden if the sequential evaluation process proceeds to step