United States District Court, D. Arizona
Murray Snow Chief United States District Judge.
before the Court is the appeal of Plaintiff Rebecca Listiak,
which challenges the decision of the Social Security
Administration to deny benefits to her deceased husband,
(“claimant”). (Doc. 15). For the following
reasons, the case is remanded to the ALJ for further
22, 2011, the claimant applied for disability insurance
benefits, alleging a disability onset date of September 30,
2009. (Tr. at 17). The claim was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. (Tr. at 49; Tr. at 51). Plaintiff then
appealed to an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
Before the first hearing on the matter, Mr. Listiak passed
away. The ALJ conducted a hearing of the matter on November
13, 2013, and subsequently issued a decision denying
benefits, which found that Mr. Listiak retained the ability
to perform light work up until his death in 2013. (Tr. at
14-30). Plaintiff then appealed this determination to the
Appeals Council, which denied the request for review.
Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in this Court arguing that the
ALJ's decision was not free from legal error. (Tr. 804,
801). In that proceeding, the Commissioner stipulated there
was legal error, so the court remanded the case back to the
ALJ with instructions to render a new decision. (Tr.
remand, the ALJ conducted additional investigation and
supplemental hearings (Tr. 735). In this second decision, the
ALJ again undertook the five-step sequential evaluation for
determining disability. (Tr. at 717). At step one, the ALJ
found that the claimant did not engage in substantial gainful
activity after the alleged onset date. (Tr. at 717). At step
two, the ALJ determined that the claimant suffered from the
severe impairments of ischemic heart disease, peripheral
arterial disease, chronic venous insufficiency, triple vessel
coronary artery disease, bilateral hip avascular necrosis,
and lumbar degenerative disc disease. (Tr. at 717). At step
three, the ALJ found that none of these impairments-either
alone or in combination-met or equaled any of the Social
Security Administration's listed impairments prior to
March 2012. (Tr. at 719). The ALJ determined that prior to
March 2012, the claimant had the residual functional capacity
to perform sedentary work. At step four, the ALJ determined
that the claimant, prior to March 2012, retained the ability
to perform his past work as a golf club manager at a
sedentary level. (Tr. at 723).
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 classifying the claimant's
past work as golf club manager and finding that he could
perform that work in the national economy prior to March
ALJ's Vocational Determination
four, “a claimant has the burden to prove that he
cannot perform his past relevant work either as actually
performed or as generally performed in the national
economy.” Stacy v. Colvin, 825 F.3d 563, 569
(9th Cir. 2016) (internal citation and quotation marks
omitted). An ALJ may use either the “actually performed
test, ” or the “generally performed test”
when evaluating whether a claimant may perform past work.
Id. The generally performed test is ...