United States District Court, E.D. California
DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. 15)
ORDER REMANDING THE ACTION PURSUANT TO SENTENCE FOUR OF 42
U.S.C. § 405(G) AND DIRECTING ENTRY OF JUDGMENT IN FAVOR
OF PLAINTIFF SHARON LYNETTE PAIGE JAMES AND AGAINST
DEFENDANT, THE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
JENNIFER L. THURSTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Lynette Paige James asserts she is entitled to a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff argues the
administrative law judge erred in terminating the analysis at
step one of the sequential evaluation. Because the ALJ erred
at step one and failed to determine whether Plaintiff's
medically determinable impairments could be expected to last
twelve months, the matter is REMANDED for
further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
January 2015, Plaintiff filed an application a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits, alleging
disability due to anxiety disorder, Bipolar disorder,
post-traumatic stress disorder, left shoulder rotator cup
pain, and Fuchs' corneal dystrophy. (Doc. 9-4 at 80; Doc.
9-6 at 17) The Social Security Administration denied her
application at the initial level and upon reconsideration.
(See Doc. 9-4 at 79-98; Doc. 9-3 at 12) Plaintiff
requested a hearing and testified before an ALJ on April 25,
2017. (See Doc. 9-3 at 12, 26) The ALJ determined
Plaintiff was not disabled because there was “no
continuous 12-month period during which the claimant [had]
not engaged in substantial gainful activity” and issued
an order denying benefits on November 13, 2017. (Id.
requested review by the Appeals Council, asserting that the
ALJ erred in his decision, and stating she “not been
able to work in well over 12 months.” (Doc. 9-5 at 69)
On August 2, 2018, the Appeals Council “denied
Plaintiff's request for review, finding “no reason
under [the] rules to review the Administrative Law
Judge's decision.” (Doc. 9-3 at 2-4) Thus, the
ALJ's determination became the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security.
Standard of Review
courts have a limited scope of judicial review for disability
claims after a decision by the Commissioner to deny benefits
under the Social Security Act. When reviewing findings of
fact, such as whether a claimant was disabled, the Court must
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The ALJ's determination that the
claimant is not disabled must be upheld by the Court if the
proper legal standards were applied and the findings are
supported by substantial evidence. See Sanchez v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Serv., 812 F.2d 509, 510
(9th Cir. 1987).
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol.
Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197 (1938)). The record as
a whole must be considered, because “[t]he court must
consider both evidence that supports and evidence that
detracts from the ALJ's conclusion.” Jones v.
Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985).
qualify for benefits under the Social Security Act, Plaintiff
must establish she is unable to engage in substantial gainful
activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental
impairment that has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(A). An individual shall be considered to
have a disability only if:
his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work,
but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B). The burden of proof is on a
claimant to establish disability. Terry v. Sullivan,
903 F.2d 1273, 1275 (9th Cir. 1990). If a claimant
establishes a prima facie case of disability, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner to prove the claimant is able to
engage in other substantial gainful employment. Maounis
v. Heckler, 738 F.2d 1032, 1034 (9th Cir. 1984).