United States District Court, D. Nevada
ERICA M. NASH O/B/O A.R.N.H., Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
WEKSLER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
case involves review of an administrative action by the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
denying Plaintiff A.R.N.H.'s (“Plaintiff”)
application for supplemental security income benefits under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff is a minor.
court has reviewed Plaintiff's motion for reversal or
remand (ECF No. 17), filed August 11, 2017, and the
Commissioner's response and cross-motion to affirm (ECF
Nos. 18 and 19), filed September 11, 2017. Plaintiff did not
file a reply. This matter was referred to the undersigned
magistrate judge on May 3, 2019 for a report of findings and
recommendations under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)-(C) and
Local Rule IB 1-4.
19, 2012, Plaintiff's mother applied for supplemental
security income on Plaintiff's behalf under Title XVI of
the Act, alleging an onset date of February 1, 2008.
64. Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on November
26, 2012 and on reconsideration on January 14, 2014. AR
91-94, 101-104. A hearing was held before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) on May 1, 2015. AR 45-61. On
October 2, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff
was not disabled. AR 21-39. The ALJ's decision became the
Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council
denied review on December 16, 2016. AR 1-7. Plaintiff, on
February 15, 2017, commenced this action for judicial review
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (See IFP App. (ECF
followed the three-step sequential evaluation process set
forth in 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i). AR 27-39. At
step one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since July 19, 2012. AR 27. At
step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff had a medically
determinable “severe” combination of impairments
of disruptive impulse control and conduct disorder.
Id. At step three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id. The ALJ also found
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that functionally equaled the severity of
listings. Id. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded
Plaintiff was not under a disability at any time from July
19, 2012 through the date of the decision. AR 39.
Standard of Review
decisions in social security disability benefits cases are
reviewed under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Akopyan v.
Barnhart, 296 F.3d 852, 854 (9th Cir. 2002). Section
405(g) reads: “Any individual, after any final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security made after a hearing
to which he was a party, irrespective of the amount in
controversy, may obtain a review of such decision by a civil
action . . . brought in the district court of the United
States for the judicial district in which the plaintiff
resides.” The court may enter “upon the pleadings
and transcripts of the record, a judgment affirming,
modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a
rehearing.” Id. The Ninth Circuit reviews a
decision affirming, modifying, or reversing a decision of the
Commissioner de novo. See Batson v.
Comm'r, 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004).
Commissioner's findings of fact are conclusive if
supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Ukolov v. Barnhart, 420 F.3d 1002,
1004 (9th Cir. 2005). However, the Commissioner's
findings may be set aside if they are based on legal error or
not supported by substantial evidence. See Stout v.
Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 454 F.3d 1050, 1052 (9th
Cir. 2006); Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954
(9th Cir. 2002). The Ninth Circuit defines substantial
evidence as “more than a mere scintilla but less than a
preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995); see also Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211,
1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005). In determining whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence, the court “must review the administrative
record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports
and the evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's
conclusion.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715,
720 (9th Cir. 1998); see also Smolen v. Chater, 80
F.3d 1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996).
the substantial evidence test, findings must be upheld if
supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record.
Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193. When the evidence will
support more than one rational interpretation, the court must
defer to the Commissioner's interpretation. See Burch
v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005);
Flaten v. Sec'y of Health and Human Serv., 44
F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995). Consequently, the issue
before the court is not whether the Commissioner could
reasonably have reached a different conclusion, but whether
the final decision is supported by substantial evidence. It
is incumbent on the ALJ to make specific findings so that the
court does not speculate as to the basis of the findings when
determining if the Commissioner's decision is supported
by substantial evidence. Mere cursory findings of fact
without explicit statements as to what portions of the
evidence were accepted or rejected are not sufficient.
Lewin v. Schweiker, 654 F.2d 631, 634 (9th Cir.
1981). The ALJ's findings “should be as
comprehensive and analytical as feasible, and where
appropriate, should include a statement of subordinate
factual foundations on which the ultimate factual conclusions
are based.” Id.