Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Huddleston v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 10, 2017

MILLICEN MARIE HUDDLESTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael McShane United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Millicen Marie Huddleston brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiffs claim for disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). The Commissioner's decision is reversed because the Appeals Council ("AC") erred in finding new evidence was not material to the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision. Because it is not clear that the ALJ would have to find plaintiff disabled even with the new medical opinions, this matter is remanded to the ALJ for further proceedings.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Huddleston applied for DIB on May 22, 2011, alleging disability as of March 24, 2011. Following a hearing, the ALJ issued a written opinion on May 29, 2014 finding Huddleston not disabled. After the ALJ's decision, Huddleston submitted new evidence to the AC. This new evidence consisted of medical opinions from two members of Huddleston's "three-member treatment team," including Dr. Sheryl Estlund, Huddleston's "primary provider." Tr. 1530-31; 1562.[1] Amongst other comments, Dr. Estlund opined Huddleston "is limited in standing and walking no more than occasionally . . . ." Tr. 1530. Dr. Estlund drafted her opinion on July 10, 2014, but noted "This information is derived from my observations and the review of her record and consistent with my treatment of her." Tr. 1531. Dr. Estlund noted her team treated Huddleston since March of 2011. Tr. 1530. In other words, Dr. Estlund's team treated Huddleston throughout her alleged period of disability.

         The AC considered the new evidence, but stated:

We found that this information does not provide a basis for changing the Administrative Law Judge's decision.
We also looked at[:] The Administrative Law Judge decided your case through May 29, 2014. This new information is about a later time. Therefore, it does not affect the decision about whether you were disabled beginning on or before May 29, 2014.

Tr. 2.

         Critical to the dispute here, the AC explicitly noted it received the July 2014 opinions of Huddleston's treating physicians and "is making [the additional evidence] part of the record." Tr. 6. The AC then denied Huddleston's request for review. Tr. 1.

         Huddleston timely appealed the Commissioner's decision. Huddleston alleges several errors. As relevant here, Huddleston argues the AC erred in failing to consider the new evidence material to her claim.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The reviewing court shall affirm the Commissioner's decision if the decision is based on proper legal standards and the legal findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm 'rfor Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). "Substantial evidence is '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.'" Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Sandgathe v. Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997)). To determine whether substantial evidence exists, we review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and that which detracts from the ALJ's conclusion. Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323, 326 (9th Cir. 1989). "If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing, 'the reviewing court may not substitute its judgment' for that of the Commissioner." Gutierrez v. Comm 'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 740 F.3d 519, 523 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720-21 (9th Cir. 1996)).

         DISCUSSION

         The ALJ here issued a well-reasoned decision based on the evidence before him. However, Huddleston submitted new evidence to the AC. The AC found the new evidence was not material because it was dated two months after the ALJ's decision. The Commissioner argues the Court lacks jurisdiction to review the AC's decision because it is not a "final decision." The Commissioner argues that under sentence six of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.