United States District Court, C.D. California
OPINION AND ORDER
H. KEWALRAMANI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
P.S.M. (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“Commissioner, ”
“Agency, ” or “Defendant”) denying
her application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”), under Title II of the Social Security
Act (the “Act”). This Court has jurisdiction
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c), the parties have consented to the jurisdiction
of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. For the
reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is
REVERSED and this action is REMANDED for further proceedings
consistent with this Order.
filed an application for DIB on February 25, 2015, alleging
disability beginning on December 28, 2013. Transcript
(“Tr.”) 170-73. Following a denial of benefits,
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”) and, on April 18, 2018, ALJ Cynthia
Floyd determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. Tr. 17-31.
Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ's decision with the
Appeals Council, however, review was denied on December 11,
2018. Tr. 1-6. This appeal followed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing court shall affirm the Commissioner's decision
if the decision is based on correct legal standards and the
legal findings are supported by substantial evidence in the
record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r
Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004).
Substantial 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)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In reviewing
the Commissioner's alleged errors, this Court must weigh
“both the evidence that supports and detracts from the
[Commissioner's] conclusions.” Martinez v.
Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986).
evidence reasonably supports either confirming or reversing
the ALJ's decision, [the Court] may not substitute [its]
judgment for that of the ALJ.'” Ghanim v.
Colvin, 763 F.3d 1154, 1163 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Batson, 359 F.3d at 1196); see also Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 959 (9th Cir. 2002) (“If
the ALJ's credibility finding is supported by substantial
evidence in the record, [the Court] may not engage in
second-guessing.”) (citation omitted). A reviewing
court, however, “cannot affirm the decision of an
agency on a ground that the agency did not invoke in making
its decision.” Stout v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 454 F.3d 1050, 1054 (9th Cir. 2006) (citation
omitted). Finally, a court may not reverse an ALJ's
decision if the error is harmless. Burch v.
Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005) (citation
omitted). “[T]he burden of showing that an error is
harmful normally falls upon the party attacking the
agency's determination.” Shinseki v.
Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 409 (2009).
Establishing Disability Under The Act
establish whether a claimant is disabled under the Act, it
must be shown that:
(a) the claimant suffers from a medically determinable
physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result
in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than twelve months; and
(b) the impairment renders the claimant incapable of
performing the work that the claimant previously performed
and incapable of performing any other substantial gainful
employment that exists in the national economy.
Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir.
1999) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A)). “If a
claimant meets both requirements, he or she is
employs a five-step sequential evaluation process to
determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning
of the Act. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140
(1987); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). Each step is
potentially dispositive and “if a claimant is found to
be ‘disabled' or ‘not-disabled' at any
step in the sequence, there is no need to consider subsequent
steps.” Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098; 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520. The claimant carries the burden of proof at
steps one through four, and the Commissioner carries the
burden of proof at step five. Tackett, 180 F.3d at
five steps are:
Step 1. Is the claimant presently working in a substantially
gainful activity [(“SGA”)]? If so, then the
claimant is “not disabled” within the meaning of
the  Act and is not entitled to [DIB]. If the claimant is
not working in a [SGA], then the claimant's case cannot
be resolved at step one and the evaluation proceeds to step
two. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).
Step 2. Is the claimant's impairment severe? If not, then
the claimant is “not disabled” and is not
entitled to [DIB]. If the claimant's impairment is
severe, then the claimant's case cannot be resolved at
step two and the evaluation proceeds to step three.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).
Step 3. Does the impairment “meet or equal” one
of a list of specific impairments described in the
regulations? If so, the claimant is “disabled”
and therefore entitled to [DIB]. If the claimant's
impairment neither meets nor equals one of the impairments
listed in the regulations, then the claimant's case
cannot be resolved at step three and the evaluation proceeds
to step four. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d).
Step 4. Is the claimant able to do any work that he or she
has done in the past? If so, then the claimant is “not
disabled” and is not entitled to [DIB]. If the claimant
cannot do any work he or she did in the past, then the
claimant's case cannot be resolved at step four and the