United States District Court, D. Arizona
MICHELLE H. BURNS, Magistrate Judge.
Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Guy Brown's appeal from the Social Security Administration's final decision to deny his claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. After reviewing the administrative record and the arguments of the parties, the Court now issues the following ruling.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income in August 2007. (Transcript of Administrative Record ("Tr.") at 12, 223-32.) His claim proceeded through the administrative process and was denied in an ALJ decision dated January 26, 2010, following a hearing. (Tr. at 64-93, 98-117.) The Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request for review on November 15, 2010, and remanded the case to an ALJ for further proceedings. (Tr. at 118-21.)
On remand, the ALJ heard testimony on May 15, 2012, from Plaintiff and from an impartial vocational expert. (Tr. at 12, 42-63.) Plaintiff alleged he was disabled for a closed period from August 1, 2007, to February 24, 2010, and requested a closed period of disability. (Tr. at 12, 45-46.)
The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on June 26, 2012, finding Plaintiff was not under a disability within the meaning of the Act. (Tr. at 9-30.) Plaintiff timely requested review, which the Appeals Council denied on January 7, 2014, making the ALJ decision the Commissioner's final decision. (Tr. at 1-6.) Plaintiff then 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 ...