United States District Court, D. Arizona
Silvana B. Cancanon, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MURRAY SNOW CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is the appeal of Plaintiff Silvana B.
Cancanon, which challenges the Social Security
Administration's decision to deny benefits. (Doc. 16).
For the following reasons, the Court vacates the ALJ's
decision and remands for consideration in accordance with
22, 2013, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance
benefits, alleging a disability onset date of January 1,
2013. (Tr. at 21). Plaintiff's claim was denied both
initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. at 146; Tr. at 162).
Plaintiff then appealed to an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. at 21). The ALJ conducted a hearing
on the matter on October 13, 2015, as well as a supplemental
hearing on April 5, 2016, and subsequently issued a decision
denying benefits. (Tr. at 21). Plaintiff then appealed her
decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her request for
review. (Tr. at 1).
evaluating whether Plaintiff was disabled, the ALJ undertook
the five-step sequential evaluation for determining
disability. (Tr. at 23-31). At step one, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (Tr. at 24).
At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from
the severe impairments of degenerative changes of the spine,
arthralgia and obesity. (Id.). At step three, the
ALJ determined that none of these impairments, either alone
or in combination, met or equaled any of the Social Security
Administration's listed impairments. (Tr. at
point, the ALJ determined Plaintiff's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”), concluding that Plaintiff could
perform light work prior to August 25, 2015. (Tr. at 32). The
ALJ thus determined at step four that Plaintiff retained the
RFC to perform her past relevant work as a “home
companion.” (Tr. at 37). The ALJ did not reach step
five. (Tr. at 38).
Standard of Review
reviewing federal court will only address the issues raised
by the claimant in the appeal from the ALJ's decision.
See Lewis v. Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 517 n.13 (9th Cir.
2001). A federal court may set aside a denial of disability
benefits only if that denial is either unsupported by
substantial evidence or based on legal error. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). Substantial
evidence is “more than a scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Id. (quotation omitted).
“Substantial evidence is relevant evidence which,
considering the record as a whole, a reasonable person might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. (quotation omitted).
the ALJ is responsible for resolving conflicts in testimony,
determining credibility, and resolving ambiguities. See
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995).
“When the evidence before the ALJ is subject to more
than one rational interpretation, we must defer to the
ALJ's conclusion.” Batson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1198 (9th Cir. 2004). This
is because “[t]he [ALJ] and not the reviewing court
must resolve conflicts in evidence, and if the evidence can
support either outcome, the court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ.” Matney v.
Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 1992) (citations
argues that the ALJ erred by: (1) giving little or no weight
to the opinions of treating physician Dr. Mertens and
examining physician Dr. Peachy, (2) improperly evaluating
Plaintiff's testimony as to her symptoms, and by (3)
improperly discrediting the testimony of Plaintiff's
daughter. (Doc. 16 at 1-2).
ALJ's Evaluation of Various Physician Opinions
reject the uncontradicted opinion of a treating or examining
doctor, an ALJ must state clear and convincing reasons that
are supported by substantial evidence.” Revels v.
Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 2017) (internal
citations and quotation marks omitted). “[T]he opinion
of a nonexamining physician cannot by itself constitute
substantial evidence that justifies the rejection of the
opinion of either an examining physician or a
treating physician.” Id. (emphasis in
original) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
But if a treating doctor's opinion is contradicted by
another nonexamining physician, it may then be rejected for
“specific and legitimate reasons supported by
substantial evidence in the record for so doing.”
Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1995).
the ALJ gave great weight to the state agency physicians Dr.
Keer and Dr. Metcalf. (Tr. at 29). The ALJ gave limited
weight to the opinion of Dr. Peachy, and little weight to the
opinion of Dr. Mertins. (Tr. at 29; Tr. at 28).