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Luther v. Berryhill

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 4, 2018

Carol Ann Luther, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Nancy Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued and Submitted February 15, 2018 Pasadena, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court For the Central District of California Josephine L. Staton, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 2:15-cv-03356-JLS-JEM

          Erika Bailey Drake (argued) and Roger D. Drake, Drake & Drake P.C., Calabasas, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Tina L. Naicker (argued), Special Assistant United States Attorney; Deborah L. Stachel, Acting Regional Chief Counsel, Region IX; Sandra R. Brown, Acting United States Attorney; Social Security Administration, San Francisco, California; for Defendant-Appellee.

          Before: Marsha S. Berzon and Jay S. Bybee, Circuit Judges, and Sharon L. Gleason, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY [**]

         Social Security

         The panel reversed the district court's judgment that affirmed the administrative law judge's denial of a claimant's application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act and supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Act.

         As an initial matter, the panel held that the Appeals Council's reasoning for denying review is not considered on subsequent judicial review, and turned to the reasoning provided by the ALJ in her decision.

         The panel held that the ALJ erred in not adequately addressing claimant's 100% Veterans Affairs ("VA") disability rating in her decision. The panel held that although the ALJ noted claimant's VA disability rating at the hearing and in her written decision, she did not address how she had considered and weighed the VA's rating or articulate any reasons for rejecting it. The panel held that remand for further proceedings was appropriate where it was unclear from the record whether the ALJ would be required to find claimant disabled after evaluating the VA disability rating.

          OPINION

          GLEASON, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Carol Ann Luther appeals the district court's judgment affirming the administrative law judge ("ALJ")'s denial of her application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Act. We hold that the ALJ erred in not adequately addressing Luther's 100% Veterans Affairs ("VA") disability rating in her decision. We reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 27, 2013, Luther filed an application for DIB and SSI. She sought these benefits due to her post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") and degenerative disc disease. At that time, she claimed a disability onset date of December 28, 2012. In December 2013, the VA concluded that Luther was 100 percent disabled for PTSD, 30 percent disabled for urinary tract infection, and 10 percent disabled for degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, for an overall rating of 100% disabled, ...


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