United States District Court, D. Arizona
HONORABLE LYNNETTE C. KIMMINS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Caitlyn Boyle filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision by the
Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner). (Doc. 1.)
Before the Court are Boyle's Opening Brief,
Defendant's Responsive Brief, and Boyle's Reply.
(Docs. 16, 17, 18.) The parties have consented to Magistrate
Judge jurisdiction. (Doc. 12.) Based on the pleadings and the
administrative record submitted to the Court, this case is
remanded for an award of benefits.
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on December 16, 2011.
(Administrative Record (AR) 68, 69, 211, 213.) She alleged
disability from March 23, 2011. (AR 211, 213.) Boyle's
application was denied upon initial review (AR 68-89) and on
reconsideration (AR 90-114). A hearing was held on May 21,
2014 (AR 34-67), after which the ALJ found that Boyle was not
disabled because she could perform her past relevant work (AR
21-28). The Appeals Council denied Boyle's request to
review the ALJ's decision. (AR 1.)
was born on October 6, 1986, making her 24 years of age at
the onset date of her alleged disability. (AR 211.) Boyle has
past experience doing retail work and clerical work, as well
as work in social services; she lasted work in 2011. (AR
found Boyle had one severe impairment of narcolepsy. (AR 23.)
The ALJ cited Boyle's long history of polysubstance abuse
but found it did not limit her ability to perform work
activities. (AR 24.) The ALJ determined Boyle did not have
any limitations based on psychological conditions.
(Id.) The ALJ concluded Boyle had the RFC to perform
work at all exertional levels, limited to never climbing
ladders, ropes or scaffolds, and no work at unprotected
heights or around hazardous moving machinery. (AR 25.) The
ALJ concluded at Step Four, after testimony from a vocational
expert, that Boyle could perform her past relevant work as a
retail clerk or routine office clerk. (AR 27.)
Commissioner employs a five-step sequential process to
evaluate SSI and DIB claims. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520;
416.920; see also Heckler v. Campbell, 461 U.S. 458,
460-462 (1983). To establish disability the claimant bears
the burden of showing she (1) is not working; (2) has a
severe physical or mental impairment; (3) the impairment
meets or equals the requirements of a listed impairment; and
(4) claimant's RFC precludes her from performing her past
work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).
At Step Five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show
that the claimant has the RFC to perform other work that
exists in substantial numbers in the national economy.
Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir.
2007). If the Commissioner conclusively finds the claimant
“disabled” or “not disabled” at any
point in the five-step process, she does not proceed to the
next step. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
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) (citing Magallanes v.
Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989)). The findings
of the Commissioner are meant to be conclusive if supported
by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d
1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999) (quoting Matney v.
Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1018 (9th Cir. 1992)). The
court may overturn the decision to deny benefits only
“when the ALJ's findings are based on legal error
or are not supported by substantial evidence in the record as
a whole.” Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033,
1035 (9th Cir. 2001). This is so because the ALJ “and
not the reviewing court must resolve conflicts in the
evidence, and if the evidence can support either outcome, the
court may not substitute its judgment for that of the
ALJ.” Matney, 981 F.2d at 1019 (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 400 (1971));
Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d
1190, 1198 (9th Cir. 2004). The Commissioner's decision,
however, “cannot be affirmed simply by isolating a
specific quantum of supporting evidence.” Sousa v.
Callahan, 143 F.3d 1240, 1243 (9th Cir. 1998) (citing
Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir.
1989)). Reviewing courts must consider the evidence that
supports as well as detracts from the Commissioner's
conclusion. Day v. Weinberger, 522 F.2d 1154, 1156
(9th Cir. 1975).
argues the ALJ committed five errors: (1) he failed to base
his decision on any medical evidence; (2) he gave undue
weight to Boyle's drug use; and (3) he failed to find her
mental impairments severe.
challenges the ALJ's treatment of the medical opinions in
the record. The record contains several opinions by her
treating physician, Dr. Philip Eichling. On June 3, 2010, Dr.
Eichling opined that Boyle could participate in an externship
if allowed to arrive 15 minutes late and “take naps or
breaks if needed.” (AR 308.) In September and October
2012, Dr. Eichling opined that, due to her narcolepsy (and
depression), Boyle could not work at a “standard”
job and was disabled. (AR 340, 341.) On April 29, 2014, Dr.