United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
TIMOTHY J. CAVAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
December 2, 2017, Plaintiff Timothy Lee Kite
(“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Social Security Act, requesting
judicial review of the final administrative decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”) regarding the denial of
Plaintiff's claim for disability insurance benefits under
Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-433. (Doc. 1.) On March 5, 2018, the Commissioner filed
the Administrative Record (“A.R.”) (Doc. 8).
before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment, seeking reversal of the Commissioner's denial
and remand for further administrative proceedings. (Doc. 13.)
The motion is fully briefed and ripe for the Court's
review. (Docs. 14-15.)
reasons set forth herein, and after careful consideration of
the record and the applicable law, the Court hereby finds
Plaintiff's motion should be GRANTED,
and the Commissioner's decision should be
filed an application for disability insurance benefits on
December 17, 2014. (A.R. 161-62.) Plaintiff alleged he has
been unable to work since July 17, 2014 due to his disabling
condition. (A.R. 161.) The Social Security Administration
denied Plaintiff's application initially on June 1, 2015,
and upon reconsideration on November 3, 2015. (A.R. 74-84;
December 18, 2015, Plaintiff filed a written request for a
hearing. (A.R. 107-08.) Administrative Law Judge Michael A.
Kilroy (the “ALJ”) held a hearing on November 10,
2016. (A.R. 37-73.) On January 25, 2017, the ALJ issued a
partially favorable decision finding Plaintiff was disabled
from July 17, 2014 through April 28, 2016, but had medically
improved to the point he was no longer disabled as of April
29, 2016. (A.R. 19-32.)
requested review of the decision, and on October 6, 2017, the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
(A.R. 1-6.) Thereafter, Plaintiff filed the instant action.
Scope of Review
Social Security Act allows unsuccessful claimants to seek
judicial review of the Commissioner's final agency
decision. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). The
scope of judicial review is limited. The Court must affirm
the Commissioner's decision unless it “is not
supported by substantial evidence or it is based upon legal
error.” Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601
(9th Cir. 1999). See also Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427
F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005) (“We may reverse
the ALJ's decision to deny benefits only if it is based
upon legal error or is not supported by substantial
evidence.”); Flaten v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995).
evidence is more than a mere scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Tidwell, 161 F.3d at 601
(citing Jamerson v. Chater, 112 F.3d 1064, 1066 (9th
Cir. 1997)). “Substantial evidence is relevant evidence
which, considering the record as a whole, a reasonable person
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Flaten, 44 F.3d at 1457. In considering the record
as a whole, the Court must weigh both the evidence that
supports and detracts from the ALJ's conclusions.
Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th Cir. 1985);
Day v. Weinberger, 522 F.2d 1154, 1156 (9th Cir.
1975)). The Court must uphold the denial of benefits if the
evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision.
Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir.
2005); Flaten, 44 F.3d at 1457. “However, a
reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole
and may not affirm simply by isolating a ‘specific
quantum of supporting evidence.'” Robbins v.
Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir.2006)
(quoting Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th
Cir.1989)). The Court reviews only the reasons provided by
the ALJ in the disability determination and may not affirm on
a ground upon which the ALJ did not rely. Orn v.
Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).
even if the Court finds that substantial evidence supports
the ALJ's conclusions, the Court must set aside the
decision if the ALJ failed to apply the proper legal
standards in weighing the evidence and reaching a conclusion.
Benitez v. Califano, 573 F.2d 653, 655 (9th Cir.
1978) (quoting Flake v. Gardner, 399 F.2d 532, 540
(9th Cir. 1968)).
Determination of Disability
qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security
Act, a claimant must show two things: (1) he suffers from a
medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can
be expected to last for a continuous period of twelve months
or more, or would result in death; and (2) the impairment
renders the claimant incapable of performing the work he
previously performed, or any other substantial gainful
employment which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(1)(A), 423(d)(2)(A). A claimant must meet
both requirements to be classified as disabled. Id.
Commissioner makes the assessment of disability through a
five-step sequential evaluation process. If an applicant is
found to be “disabled” or “not
disabled” at any step, there is no need to proceed
further. Ukolov v. Barnhart, 420 F.3d 1002, 1003
(9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Schneider v. Comm'r of the
Soc. Sec. Admin., 223 F.3d 968, 974 (9th Cir. 2000)).
The five steps are:
1. Is claimant presently working in a substantially gainful
activity? If so, then the claimant is not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act. If not, proceed to step
two. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
2. Is the claimant's impairment severe? If so, proceed to
step three. If not, then the claimant is not disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c).
3. Does the impairment “meet or equal” one of a
list of specific impairments described in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, then the claimant is disabled.
If not, proceed to step four. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
4. Is the claimant able to do any work that he or she has
done in the past? If so, then the claimant is not disabled.
If not, proceed to step five. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e)-(f), 416.920(e)-(f).
5. Is the claimant able to do any other work? If so, then the
claimant is not disabled. If not, then the claimant is
disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g),
Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 954 (9th Cir.
the ALJ must assist the claimant in developing a record, the
claimant bears the burden of proof during the first four
steps, while the Commissioner bears the burden of proof at
the fifth step. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094,
1098, n.3 (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1512(d)). At step
five, the Commissioner must “show that the claimant can
perform some other work that exists in ‘significant
numbers' in the national economy, taking into
consideration the claimant's ...