United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable Lynnette C. Kimmins United States Magistrate Judge
Eugene Canez brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review
of a final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security
(Commissioner). Canez filed an opening brief, Defendant filed
a brief requesting remand, and Canez filed a reply. (Docs.
16, 20, 22.) The parties have consented to Magistrate Judge
jurisdiction. (Doc. 13.) Based on the pleadings and the
Administrative Record, the Court remands this matter for
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
in December 2013. (Administrative Record (AR) 185.) He
alleged disability from December 19, 2006. (Id.)
Canez's application was denied upon initial review (AR
64-76) and on reconsideration (AR 77-90). A hearing was held
on January 23, 2017 (AR 33-53), after which the ALJ found
that Canez was not disabled because he could perform other
work available in the national economy (AR 15-26). The
Appeals Council denied Canez's request to review the
ALJ's decision. (AR 1.)
was born in 1964 and was 49 at his protective filing date.
(AR 185.) Canez has past relevant work as a nursing home
housekeeper and a yard worker. (AR 24, 37, 38.)
found Canez had severe impairments of degenerative disc
disease and right eye blindness. (AR 17.) The ALJ determined
Canez had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform:
Light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a), specifically the
Claimant can lift and carry twenty pounds occasionally and
ten pounds frequently, stand or walk for six hours total, and
sit for six hours total in an eight-hour workday. However,
the climbing of ramps and stairs must be limited to
occasionally, while the climbing of ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds must be entirely precluded from work duties as
assigned. Stooping or bending at the waist are limited to
occasionally. Kneeling, crouching, bending at the knees, and
crawling must be entirely precluded from assigned work
duties. Tasks requiring depth perception or field of vision
must likewise be entirely precluded from duties as assigned.
Finally, exposure to dust, odors, and gases must be precluded
entirely from within the assigned work area.
(AR 19.) The ALJ concluded at Step Five, based on the
Medical-Vocational Rules and the testimony of a vocational
expert (VE), that Canez could perform work that exists in
significant numbers in the national economy (fast food worker
and cashier II). (AR 25.)
Commissioner employs a five-step sequential process to
evaluate SSI claims. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; see also
Heckler v. Campbell, 461 U.S. 458, 460-462 (1983). To
establish disability the claimant bears the burden of showing
he (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 him from performing his past work. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(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. § 416.920(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 erred in five ways: (1) in finding Canez could
stand and/or walk for 6 hours per workday; (2) in finding
Canez did not need a cane to stand and/or walk; (3) in
finding Canez could perform prolonged standing and/or
walking; (4) in finding Canez could work as a fast food
worker despite an RFC that prohibited exposure to dust,
odors, and gases; and (5) in not finding Canez disabled at
Step Five based on an accurate RFC. Canez requests a remand
for the award of benefits or, alternatively, a remand that
includes all identified errors.
agrees the ALJ erred as to Canez's claim 1 by rejecting
without explanation Dr. Hassman's opinion that Canez
could stand and/or walk for only three hours in an eight-hour
day. Defendant argues that further proceedings are necessary,
and she disagrees with Canez's request for an award of
benefits. Defendant argues there are conflicts in the record
that the ALJ must resolve: Dr. Hassman's opinion on
Canez's standing and walking abilities conflicted with
the opinions of Drs. Fahlberg and Hirsch; and examinations
from various doctors were in conflict regarding whether
Canez's gait was impaired and if he needed a cane. Other
than her citations to conflicting evidence, Defendant's
brief did not address the substance of Canez's claims of
error numbered by the Court as two through five.
discussed below, the Court finds Canez's first three
claims dispositive and, therefore, does ...