United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable Bruce G. Macdonald United States Magistrate Judge.
pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Opening Brief
(Doc. 22). Defendant filed her Brief (“Response”)
(Doc. 23), and Plaintiff did not file a reply. Plaintiff
brings this cause of action for review of the final decision
of the Commissioner for Social Security pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Compl. (Doc. 1). The United States Magistrate
Judge has received the written consent of both parties, and
presides over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)
and Rule 73, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Beatrice Mendenhall was determined disabled in 1998. Compl.
(Doc. 1) at 2; see also Administrative Record
(“AR”) at 14. She was then incarcerated in 2004,
and released from prison in July 2005. Compl. (Doc. 1) at 2;
AR at 14. Upon Plaintiff's release, she filed a new
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) in August 2005. Response (Doc. 23) at 2;
see also AR at 96-98. After a hearing before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Lauren Mathon,
Plaintiff was denied benefits on the new application.
See AR at 51-62. Plaintiff appealed this decision,
and on June 28, 2008, the Appeals Council remanded the matter
for further development and a second hearing. Id. at
68-69. After the second hearing, on March 30, 2009, the ALJ
again issued an unfavorable decision. Id. at 14-26.
On April 3, 2009, Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's
decision by the Appeals Council, and on August 4, 2010,
review was denied. Id. at 6-9. On September 28,
2010, Plaintiff filed an appeal with the United States
District Court, District of Arizona. See USDC, D.
Ariz, No. CV-10-00586-TUC-HCE, Compl. (Doc. 1).
March 16, 2012, the Honorable Hector C. Estrada ordered the
matter remanded to the Commissioner for further proceedings.
AR at 479-509; See USDC, D. Ariz, No.
CV-10-00586-TUC-HCE, Order 3/16/2012 (Doc. 22). After further
development of the record, on November 16, 2012, ALJ George
W. Reyes held a third hearing in this matter. AR 606-26. On
November 21, ALJ Reyes issued a fully favorable decision,
finding Plaintiff disabled as of November 23, 2010.
Id. at 471-78. On December 26, 2012, Plaintiff
requested review of the ALJ's decision indicating that
she “disagree[d] with the onset date of
11/23/2010.” Id. at 470. Plaintiff further
asserted that she “felt intimidated and did not
understand the consequence[, ] [and] [t]he ALJ did not even
let [her] bring [her] adult daughter into the hearing with
[her].” Id. The Appeals Council
“considered the reasons [Plaintiff] disagree[d] with
the Administrative Law Judge's decision dated November
21, 2012 and all of the issues in the case[, ] . . . [and]
found no reason under [its] rules to assume
jurisdiction.” Id. at 467. On March 18, 2016,
Plaintiff filed the instant cause of action. See
Compl. (Doc. 1).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
factual findings of the Commissioner shall be conclusive so
long as they are based upon substantial evidence and there is
no legal error. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3);
Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir.
2008). Substantial evidence is “‘more than a mere
scintilla[, ] but not necessarily a
preponderance.'” Tommasetti, 533 F.3d at
1038 (quoting Connett v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 873
(9th Cir. 2003)); see also Garrison v. Colvin, 759
F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014). Further, substantial evidence
is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Parra
v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). Where
“the evidence can support either outcome, the court may
not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.”
Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098 (citing Matney v.
Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 1992)); see
also Massachi v. Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir.
2007). Moreover, the court may not focus on an isolated piece
of supporting evidence, rather it must consider the entirety
of the record weighing both evidence that supports as well as
that which detracts from the Secretary's conclusion.
Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098 (citations omitted).
Entitlement to Post-Incarceration Benefits
initial matter, Plaintiff has repeatedly asserted that she
was incarcerated for a term of eleven (11) months, and
therefore should have been automatically entitled to SSI
benefits upon release. Compl. (Doc. 1) at 2; Opening Br.
(Doc. 22) at 4. This issue is not before the Court in
Plaintiff's appeal; however, the Court finds it
appropriate to inform Plaintiff of her error. The Court notes
that on June 4, 2004, Plaintiff was sentenced to
thirteen (13) months in prison with credit
for time served, not eleven (11) months as she has alleged.
See USDC, D. Ariz., No. CR-01-0337-TUC-RCC (NFF),
United States v. Beatrice Dianna
Mendenhall-Gillespie, Judgment & Commitment 6/4/2004
(Doc. 86). The Court further notes that in her March 30, 2009
decision, the ALJ found that “[t]he determination
ceasing supplemental security income benefits is accordingly
administratively final and binding.” AR at 14.
Moreover, Plaintiff did not raise this claim in her previous
appeal to the district court. See USDC, D. Ariz. No.
CV-10-00586-TUC-HCE, Compl. (Doc. 1) & Opening Br. (Doc.
15). As such, this issue is waived. See Sandgathe v.
Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997) (issues not
raised to the district court are waived on appeal).
Alleged Onset Date
states that “[a]s far as the undersigned can tell,
Plaintiff's sole basis for dispute is the allegation
presented in her appeal to the Appeals Council that her
amendment of her alleged onset date was the result of
intimidation by the ALJ at the November 2012 hearing.”
Response (Doc. 23) at 3 (citation omitted). The Court agrees,
that this appears to be the only issue raised by Plaintiff.
appeared before the ALJ pro se, and stated that she
had represented herself throughout the process, including
previously before the district court. AR at 608. At the
outset of the hearing, the ALJ explained Plaintiff's
procedural rights to her, including that she could postpone
the hearing, and obtain counsel. Id. at 609-10. The
ALJ also explained the difference between back pay and future
pay. Id. Plaintiff responded that she had to go on,
because she had called private attorneys, but no one would
take her case. Id. at 610-11.
hearing testimony from the medical expert, the ALJ asked
Plaintiff about her level of education and reviewed her
earnings history. Id. at 621. After determining when
Plaintiff's age and education the ALJ reviewed the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines at 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P,
app. 2 (“the Grids”), which directed a finding of
disability. AR at 623. The ALJ explained to Plaintiff that he
had discretion to go back sixth months from her fiftieth
birthday, so that based upon the Grids and his discretion, he