United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael McShane United States District Judge
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.
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. 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 ...