United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable John Z. Boyle United States Magistrate Judge.
Charles David Randall seeks review of the Social Security
Administration Commissioner's decision denying his
application for disability benefits under of the Social
Security Act. (Doc. 1; Doc. 16.) For the reasons below, the
Court will vacate the Commissioner's decision and remand
this matter for further proceedings.
2, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits.
12.) Plaintiff alleged that he became unable to work on April
3, 2012. (Id.) Plaintiff's application was
initially denied on March 5, 2013, and denied upon
reconsideration on August 22, 2013. (Id.) Pursuant
to Plaintiff's request, a hearing was held on April 8,
2014, before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Thomas
Cheffins. (Id. at 12.) In a decision dated August
18, 2014, the ALJ ruled Plaintiff is not entitled to
disability benefits because he is “not disabled under
sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act.”
(Id. at 25.) The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.
(Id. at 1-6.)
exhausted the administrative review process, on December 22,
2015, Plaintiff sought judicial review of the ALJ's
decision by filing a Complaint in this Court pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). (Doc. 1.) On May 26, 2016, Plaintiff
filed an Opening Brief, seeking remand of this case to the
Social Security Administration. (Doc. 16.) On June 27, 2016,
Defendant filed a Response Brief in support of the
Commissioner's decision. (Doc. 18.)
Standard of Review
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), provides for
judicial review of the Commissioner's disability benefits
determinations. 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); Marcia v. Sullivan, 900 F.2d
172, 174 (9th Cir. 1990). “‘Substantial
evidence' means more than a mere scintilla, but less than
a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
person might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d
1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998).
determining whether substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's decision, the Court considers the record as a
whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and that
which detracts from the ALJ's conclusions.
Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720; Tylitzki v.
Shalala, 999 F.2d 1411, 1413 (9th Cir. 1993). The ALJ is
responsible for resolving conflicts, ambiguity, and
determining credibility. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d
1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881
F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The Court “must uphold
the ALJ's decision where the evidence is susceptible to
more than one rational interpretation.”
Andrews, 53 F.3d at 1039. “However, a
reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole
and may not affirm simply by isolating a ‘specific
quantum of supporting evidence.'” Orn, 495
F.3d at 630 (quoting Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin.,
466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). The 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). Similarly, the Court reviews “only the
reasons provided by the ALJ in the disability determination
and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not
rely.” Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1010
(9th Cir. 2014).
The ALJ's Five-Step Evaluation Process
eligible for Social Security benefits, a claimant must show
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); see also Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d
1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999). A person is under a disability
if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of
such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous
work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
follows a five-step evaluation process to determine whether
an applicant is disabled under the Social Security Act:
The five-step process for disability determinations begins,
at the first and second steps, by asking whether a claimant
is engaged in “substantial gainful activity” and
considering the severity of the claimant's impairments.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(ii). If the
inquiry continues beyond the second step, the third step asks
whether the claimant's impairment or combination of
impairments meets or equals a listing under 20 C.F.R. pt.
404, subpt. P, app. 1 and meets the duration requirement.
See Id . § 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If so, the
claimant is considered disabled and benefits are awarded,
ending the inquiry. See Id . If the process
continues beyond the third step, the fourth and fifth steps
consider the claimant's “residual functional
capacity” [“RFC”] in determining whether
the claimant can still do past relevant work or make an
adjustment to other work. See Id . §
Kennedy v. Colvin, 738 F.3d 1172, 1175 (9th Cir.
2013). “The burden of proof is on the claimant at steps
one through four, but shifts to the Commissioner at step
five.” Bray v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin.,
554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009).
the five-step evaluation process, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff is not disabled and is not entitled to benefits.
(AR 25.) At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged
onset date. (Id. at 14.) At step two, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments:
“diabetes mellitus controlled; hypertension controlled;
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and thoracic spine;
insomnia; and chronic fatigue.” (Id.) At step
three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff does not have an