United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff Leticia Anna Hernandez's
appeal of the Social Security Administration's decision
to deny her benefits. (Doc. 1.) For the reasons set forth
below, the Court remands for further proceedings.
March 9, 2012, Leticia Anna Hernandez applied for disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging
a disability onset date of June 1, 2011. (Tr. 63-64.)
Hernandez's claim was denied both initially and upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 122-36.) She then appealed to an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 137.) The
ALJ conducted a hearing on the matter on December 3, 2013.
evaluating whether Hernandez was disabled, the ALJ undertook
the five-step sequential evaluation for determining
disability. At step one, the ALJ determined that
Hernandez had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since her alleged onset date. (Tr. 14.) At step two, the ALJ
determined that Hernandez suffered from severe impairments of
“migraine; headache; [and] lumbar disc disease.”
(Id.) At step three, the ALJ determined that none of
these impairments, either alone or in combination, met or
equaled any of the Social Security Administration's
listed impairments. (Tr. 18.)
then made the following determination of Hernandez's
residual functional capacity
[Hernandez] has the residual functional capacity to perform
light level work; she cannot use ladders, ropes or scaffolds;
frequently use ramps or stairs, balance, kneel, crouch and
crawl; she should avoid concentrated exposure to noise, i.e.,
limited to the noise level in a normal office setting; she
should avoid concentrated exposure to vibration; she should
avoid even moderate exposure to hazards, being commonly
defined as either unprotected heights [or] dangerous
machinery; she can attend and concentrate in 2-hour blocks of
time throughout an 8-hour workday with the 2 customary 10-15
[minute] breaks and the customary 30-60 minutes lunch period.
(Tr. 19.) The ALJ therefore found that Hernandez retained the
RFC to perform her past relevant work as a cashier, data
entry clerk, file clerk and collector. (Tr. 22.) In the
alternative, at step five, the ALJ determined that there were
a significant number of other jobs in the national economy
that Hernandez could perform despite her limitations.
September 10, 2015, the Appeals Council declined to review
the decision. (Tr. 1-5.) Hernandez filed the complaint
underlying this action on November 10, 2015, seeking this
Court's review of the ALJ's denial of benefits. (Doc.
1.) The matter is now fully briefed before this Court. (Docs.
15, 16, 17.)
Standard of Review
reviewing federal court need only address the issues raised
by the claimant in the appeal from the ALJ's decision.
See Lewis v. Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 517 n.13 (9th Cir.
2001). A federal court may set aside a denial of disability
benefits only if that denial is either unsupported by
substantial evidence or based on legal error. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). Substantial
evidence is “more than a scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Id. (quotation omitted).
“Substantial evidence is relevant evidence which,
considering the record as a whole, a reasonable person might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. (quotation omitted).
is responsible for resolving conflicts in testimony,
determining credibility, and resolving ambiguities.
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995). “When the evidence before the ALJ is subject to
more than one rational interpretation, we must defer to the
ALJ's conclusion.” Batson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1198 (9th Cir. 2004). This
is so because “[t]he [ALJ] and not the reviewing court
must resolve conflicts in evidence, and if the evidence can
support either outcome, the court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ.” Matney v.
Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 1992) (citations
omitted). However, the Court “must consider the entire
record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a
‘specific quantum of supporting evidence.'”
Id. (citing Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498,
501 (9th Cir. 1989)). Nor may the Court “affirm the
ALJ's . . . decision based on evidence that the ALJ did
not discuss.” Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d
871, 874 (9th Cir. 2003).
argues that the ALJ erred by (A) effectively rejecting the
opinion of treating physician Dr. Doorani and (B) ...