United States District Court, D. Arizona
Johnny B. Dyer, for Robert G. Dyer, deceased, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
For Johnny B Dyer, Plaintiff: Joel F Friedman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Joel F Friedman PLLC, Phoenix, AZ.
For Carolyn W Colvin, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant: Michael A Johns, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Phoenix, AZ; Pamela M Wood, LEAD ATTORNEY, Social Security Administration - Denver, CO, Office of the General Counsel Region VIII, Denver, CO.
Neil V. Wake, United States District Judge.
On February 21, 2013, Plaintiff Robert G. Dyer initiated this action, seeking review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (" the Commissioner" ), which denied him disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under sections 216(i), 223(d), and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff, now deceased, is represented by Johnny B. Dyer. Because the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) is not supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's decision will be vacated and the matter remanded for immediate award of benefits.
A. Factual Background
Plaintiff was born in August 1961. He had a high school education and was able to communicate in English. He worked as a purchasing agent, customer service representative, auto parts inspector, and shipping clerk for auto parts. He was diagnosed with both mental and physical severe impairments.
B. Procedural History
On January 28, 2009, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging disability beginning June 4, 2003. On February 7, 2012, and June 19, 2012, he appeared with his attorney and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. A vocational expert also testified.
On September 14, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the hearing decision, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. On February 21, 2013, Plaintiff sought review by this Court.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The district court reviews only those issues raised by the party challenging the ALJ's decision. See Lewis v. Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 517 n.13 (9th Cir. 2001). The court may set aside the Commissioner's disability determination only if the determination is not supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and relevant evidence that a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion considering the record as a whole. Id. In determining whether substantial evidence supports a decision, the court must consider the record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a " specific quantum of supporting evidence." Id. As a general rule, " [w]here the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's conclusion must be upheld." Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).
III. FIVE-STEP SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS
To determine whether a claimant is disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act, the ALJ follows a five-step process. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). The claimant bears the burden of proof on the first ...