United States District Court, D. Arizona
Michelle L. Ader, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
K. Duncan, United States Magistrate Judge.
Michelle L. Ader appeals from the denial of her application
for benefits from the Social Security Administration. This
Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
and, with the parties' consent to Magistrate Judge
jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). As
detailed below, the Court concludes that the ALJ's
decision contained legal errors and so a remand for an award
of benefits is appropriate.
matter, the relevant time period is finite and begins on the
alleged onset date of October 1, 2010, and ends when
Ader's Title II disability insurance benefits ended on
March 30, 2014. (Tr. 39) As a result, Ader's burden is
to show that she was disabled before March 30, 2014.
Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th
Cir. 1998); Lombardo v. Schweiker, 749 F.2d 565, 567
(9th Cir. 1984).
court must affirm the ALJ's findings if they are
supported by substantial evidence and are free from
reversible error. Marcia v. Sullivan, 900 F.2d 172,
174 (9thCir. 1990). Substantial evidence is more
than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). In
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 v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1988).
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).
Thus, the Court must affirm the ALJ's decision where the
evidence considered in its entirety substantially supports it
and the decision is free from reversible error. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501
(9th Cir. 1989).
proceeding pro per, raises several related
challenges to the ALJ's decision. (Docs. 25, 30)
was evaluated at the request of the State agency by Renee
Behinfar, Psy.D. (Tr. 575-80) In her subsequent written
report, Dr. Behinfar concluded that Ader had unspecified
bipolar disorder and unspecified anxiety disorder. (Tr. 577)
This conclusion is uncontroverted. (Tr. 37-47) In her
opinion, the ALJ gave Dr. Behinfar's opinion
“little weight.” The relevant paragraph of ALJ
decision states as follows:
Little weight is afforded to the opinion of the Consultative
Examiner Renee Behinfar, Psy.D. who concluded the claimant
would have cognitive limitations from her mental impairments.
(8F) Specifically, the examiner concluded the claimant could
understand simpl1e instructions and would require greater
than average time to adapt. (8F) The undersigned finds the
opinion is inconsistent with and unsupported by the evidence.
The claimant got married and had two children during the
alleged disability period. She raises the two minor children
in her household, drives independently, can attend to
personal care limited only by physical impairments, shops for
groceries, can watch television without reported difficulty
in understanding and following story/plot-lines, was
cooperative during her examinations with consultative
examiners and is not in any formal mental health treatment
(See Exhibits 5E, 8F, 9F, 10F). Further, the claimant has
never been hospitalized due to severe decline in mental
health. The foregoing suggests a level of cognitive ability
inconsistent with the opinion of Dr. Behinfar, accordingly,
the opinion is afforded little weight.
assign little weight to Dr. Behinfar's uncontroverted
opinion, the ALJ needed to provide “‘clear and
convincing' reasons for doing so.” Morgan v.
Commissioner of Social Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 601
(9th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). The Court has
reviewed the relevant portions of the record and concludes
that the ALJ has not provided clear and convincing reasons
for rejecting Dr. Behinfar's opinion.
ALJ's first series of justifications-Ader's marital
status and her ability to drive, shop, watch television, and
cooperate with examiners-do not show that Ader can work and
instead fall squarely into the category of daily activities
that do “not in any way detract from her credibility as
to her overall disability. One does not need to be
‘utterly incapacitated' in order to be
disabled.” Vertigan v. Halter, 260 F.3d 1044,
1050 (9th Cir. ...