United States District Court, D. Arizona
HONORABLE LYNNETTE C. KIMMINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Katherine Warden 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 Warden's Opening Brief,
Defendant's Responsive Brief, and Warden's Reply.
(Docs. 14, 16, 17.) The parties have consented to Magistrate
Judge jurisdiction. (Doc. 10.) Based on the pleadings and the
administrative record submitted to the Court, the Court
remands this matter for further proceedings.
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
in September 2013. (Administrative Record (AR) 164.) She
alleged disability from April 26, 2012. (Id.) Her
last insured date was December 31, 2015. (AR 17.)
Warden's application was denied upon initial review (AR
63-75) and on reconsideration (AR 76-91). A hearing was held
on July 13, 2016. (AR 32-62.) Subsequently, the ALJ found
that Warden was not disabled. (AR 15-25). The Appeals Council
denied Warden's request to review the ALJ's decision.
was born on April 23, 1956, making her 56 years of age at the
onset date of her alleged disability. (AR 164.) Warden did
administrative office work from 2000 to 2003, and then worked
as a realtor until 2012. (AR 38.) She last worked in April
2012, when she was in a car accident. (AR 37.)
found that Warden had the severe impairments of fibromyalgia,
degenerative disc disease, Sjogren's syndrome, sleep
apnea, and obesity. (AR 17.) The ALJ determined Warden had
the RFC to perform light work but could only occasionally
climb ladders and reach overhead, and could climb
ramps/stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl no
more than frequently. (AR 18.) The ALJ concluded at Step
Four, based on the testimony of a vocational expert, that
Warden could perform her past relevant work as a realtor and
office worker. (AR 25.)
Commissioner employs a five-step sequential process to
evaluate DIB claims. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; 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 his past work. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(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 two errors: (1) she failed to
provide clear and convincing reasons for rejecting
Warden's credibility; and (2) she erred in giving the
treating physicians' opinions reduced weight. Warden
requests a remand for the award of benefits.
argues the ALJ failed to provide clear and convincing reasons
to reject her testimony. In general, “questions of
credibility and resolution of conflicts in the testimony are
functions solely” for the ALJ. Parra v.
Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 750 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639, 642 (9th Cir.
1982)). However, “[w]hile an ALJ may certainly find
testimony not credible and disregard it . . . [the court]
cannot affirm such a determination unless it is supported by
specific findings and reasoning.” Robbins v. Soc.
Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 884-85 (9th Cir. 2006);
Bunnell v. Sullivan, 947 F.2d 341, 345-346 (9th Cir.
1995) (requiring specificity to ensure a reviewing court the
ALJ did not arbitrarily reject a claimant's subjective
testimony); SSR 96-7p. ...