United States District Court, D. Arizona
Robert A. Lane, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MICHELLE H. BURNS, District Judge.
Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Robert A. Lane's appeal from the Social Security Administration's final decision to deny his claim for disability insurance benefits. On April 16, 2014, the Commissioner filed a Motion to Remand pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (Doc. 20). After reviewing the administrative record and the arguments of the parties, the Court now issues the following ruling.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act in February 2008, alleging disability beginning June 1, 2006. (Transcript of Administrative Record ("Tr.") at 252-53, 277, 281-82.) After a hearing, an ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claim. (Tr. at 33-54, 106-21.) However, the Appeals Council later granted Plaintiff's request for review, and remanded the case for further consideration and a new decision. (Tr. at 122-25.)
Following a second administrative hearing, another ALJ issued an October 10, 2012 decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act. (Tr. at 64-103, 8-32.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's subsequent request for review, thereby making the ALJ's October 2012 decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff sought judicial review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court must affirm the ALJ's findings if the findings are supported by substantial evidence and are free from reversible legal error. See Reddick v. Chater , 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998); Marcia v. Sullivan , 900 F.2d 172, 174 (9th Cir. 1990). Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla" and "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); see Reddick , 157 F.3d at 720.
In determining whether substantial evidence supports a decision, the Court considers the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the ALJ's conclusion. See Reddick , 157 F.3d at 720. "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and for resolving ambiguities." Andrews v. Shalala , 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995); see Magallanes v. Bowen , 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). "If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing the [Commissioner's] conclusion, the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the [Commissioner]." Reddick , 157 F.3d at 720-21.
III. THE ALJ'S FINDINGS
In order to be eligible for disability or social security benefits, a claimant must demonstrate an "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). An ALJ determines a claimant's eligibility for benefits by following a five-step sequential evaluation:
(1) determine whether the applicant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity";
(2) determine whether the applicant has a medically severe impairment or combination of impairments;
(3) determine whether the applicant's impairment equals one of a number of listed impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges as so severe as to preclude the applicant from engaging in substantial gainful activity;
(4) if the applicant's impairment does not equal one of the listed impairments, determine whether the applicant is capable of ...