United States District Court, D. Arizona
Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge.
Sharon Gilbert seeks review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”) denying her application for
disability insurance benefits. For the reasons stated below,
this matter is remanded for further proceedings.
is 67 years old and has a high school education. (Doc. 14 at
2.) She previously worked as an insurance clerk, fund trader,
loan officer, and billings collection representative.
(Id.) In 1991, Gilbert was diagnosed with multiple
sclerosis (“MS”). (Id. at 4.) She quit
working in 2011.
March 6, 2012, Gilbert applied for disability insurance
benefits, alleging disability beginning December 8, 2011.
(A.R. 17.) On July 22, 2014, she appeared with her attorney
and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. A vocational
expert also testified.
October 1, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision that Gilbert was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
The Appeals Counsel denied Gilbert’s request for review
of the hearing decision, making the ALJ’s decision the
Commissioner’s final decision. On October 22, 2015,
Gilbert sought review by this Court.
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
Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process
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 four steps, but at step five, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner. Tackett v. Apfel, 180
F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999).
first step, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is
engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i). If so, the claimant is not disabled and
the inquiry ends. Id. At step two, the ALJ
determines whether the claimant has a “severe”
medically determinable physical or mental impairment. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If not, the claimant is not disabled and
the inquiry ends. Id. At step three, the ALJ
considers whether the claimant’s impairment or
combination of impairments meets or medically equals an
impairment listed in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt.
404. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If so, the claimant is
automatically found to be disabled. Id. If not, the
ALJ proceeds to step four. At step four, the ALJ assesses the
claimant’s residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) and determines whether the claimant is
still capable of performing past relevant work. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If so, the claimant is not disabled and
the inquiry ends. Id. If not, the ALJ proceeds to
the fifth and final step, where he determines whether the
claimant can perform any other work based on the
claimant’s RFC, age, education, and work experience.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v). If so, the claimant is not
disabled. Id. If not, the claimant is disabled.
one, the ALJ found that Gilbert meets the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31,
2014, and that she has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since December 8, 2011. (A.R. 19.) At step two, the
ALJ found that Gilbert has the following severe impairments:
MS and obesity. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ
determined that Gilbert does not have an impairment or
combination of ...