United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
CLAUDIA J. WOLD, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JAMES P. DONOHUE, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Claudia J. Wold appeals the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") which denied her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33 and 1381-83f, after a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that the Commissioner's decision be reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
At the time of her administrative hearing, plaintiff was a 54 year-old woman with a AA degree. Her past work experience includes employment as a telemarketer, janitor, sales clerk, laborer, customer service representative, survey worker and child monitor. AR at 95. Plaintiff was last gainfully employed in April 2008. AR at 35.
On August 6, 2010, plaintiff filed a claim for SSI payments and for DIB, alleging an onset date, later amended to 2008. AR at 33. Plaintiff asserts that she is disabled due to left shoulder impingement, asthma, degenerative joint disease, obesity, and depression and anxiety. AR at 36-41.
The Commissioner denied plaintiff's claim initially and on reconsideration. AR at 33. Plaintiff requested a hearing which took place on November 29, 2011. AR at 52-102. On January 27, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled and denied benefits based on her finding that plaintiff could perform her past relevant work of a telemarketer and customer service representative. AR at 33-46. After reviewing additional evidence, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. AR at 1-6. Plaintiff timely filed the present action challenging the Commissioner's decision. Dkt. No. 3.
Jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision exists pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the Commissioner's denial of social security benefits when the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 (9th Cir. 2005). "Substantial evidence" is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving any other ambiguities that might exist. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). While the Court is required to examine the record as a whole, it may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, it is the Commissioner's conclusion that must be upheld. Id.
The Court may direct an award of benefits where "the record has been fully developed and further administrative proceedings would serve no useful purpose." McCartey v. Massanari, 298 F.3d 1072, 1076 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1292 (9th Cir. 1996)). The Court may find that this occurs when:
(1) the ALJ has failed to provide legally sufficient reasons for rejecting the claimant's evidence; (2) there are no outstanding issues that must be resolved before a determination of disability can be made; and (3) it is clear from the record that the ALJ would be required to find the claimant disabled if he considered the claimant's evidence.
Id. at 1076-77; see also Harman v. Apfel, 211 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2000) (noting that erroneously rejected evidence may be ...