Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Moore v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 14, 2017

Belinda Kay Moore, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          DOUGLAS L. RAYES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Belinda Kay Moore applied for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in June 2012 and Supplemental Security Income in April 2013, alleging disability beginning December 14, 2011. After state agency denials, Moore appeared for a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). A vocational expert (“VE”) also was present and testified. Following the hearing, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that Moore is not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act (“SSA”). The ALJ's decision became the agency's final decision after the Social Security Administration Appeals Council denied Moore's request for review. Moore now seeks judicial review of that decision. For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration is reversed and this matter remanded for further proceedings.

         I. The ALJ's Five-Step Sequential Evaluation

         To determine whether a claimant is disabled for purposes of the SSA, 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). At the first step, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. If so, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. At step two, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a “severe” medically determinable physical or mental impairment. If not, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. 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. If so, the claimant is automatically found to be disabled. 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. If so, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. 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. If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the claimant is disabled.

         At step one, the ALJ determined that Moore meets the insured status requirements of the SSA through December 31, 2016, and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged disability onset date. (AR 25.) The ALJ found at step two that Moore's degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine status post cervical spine stimulator trial, fibromyalgia, obesity, and hypertension are severe impairments, but concluded at step three that they do not meet or medically equal the severity of a listed impairment. (Id. at 25-29.) At step four, the ALJ found that Moore has the RFC to perform:

light work . . . with lifting and/or carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. [Moore] can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl, but never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She can frequently handle and/or perform gross manipulation bilaterally with the upper extremities.

(Id. at 29.) Based on this RFC, the ALJ found that Moore is capable of performing past relevant work as a shipping checker, data entry clerk, and billing entry clerk, performed at the sedentary and light exertional levels. (Id. at 33.) Accordingly, the ALJ found that Moore is not disabled within the meaning of the SSA. (Id. at 34.)

         II. Standard of Appellate Review

         It is not the district court's role to review the ALJ's decision de novo or otherwise determine whether the claimant is disabled. Rather, the court is limited to reviewing the ALJ's decision to determine whether it “contains legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence.” 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. 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). The court, however, “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 (internal quotations and citation omitted). Nor may the court “affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not rely.” Id.

         III. Analysis

         Moore argues that the ALJ erred by discounting her testimony concerning the severity and effects of her symptoms, and by assigning little weight to the opinions of her treating physicians, Drs. Kent D. Vosler and Ravi Bhalla. (Doc. 11.)

         A. Symptom Testimony

         Moore alleges disability due to degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, right carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, and anxiety. (AR 51.) Moore testified that her most serious health problems are caused by her back pain, which limits her ability to walk, stand, sit, and lift. She also testified that she experiences pain in her hips and legs, her arthritis causes her hands to swell, and she often is drowsy due to her medications. (Id. at 57-67.) In a function report from August 2012, Moore complained of lower back, hip, and thigh pain that made it difficult to sit, stand, or walk for long periods of time, difficulty caring for personal hygiene, declining vision, drowsiness from medications, and difficulty remembering and concentrating. (Id. at 264-71.)

         In evaluating a claimant's symptom testimony, the ALJ is required to engage in a two-step analysis: (1) determine whether the claimant presented objective medical evidence of an impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce some degree of the pain or other symptoms alleged; and, if so with no evidence of malingering, (2) reject the claimant's testimony about the severity of the symptoms only by giving specific, clear, and convincing reasons for the rejection. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009). Here, the ALJ found that Moore's medically determinable impairments reasonably could be expected to cause her alleged symptoms, but concluded ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.