Michelle BRANDON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Andrew M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellee.
Decided: September 15, 2020
Before: GRABER, BYBEE, and N.R. SMITH, Circuit Judges.
Michelle Brandon, Pro Se Shea Lita Bond, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel, San Francisco, CA, for Defendant-Appellee
Michelle Brandon appeals the district court's judgment remanding the administrative law judge's (ALJ) decision for further proceedings rather than an immediate award of benefits. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and review the district court's decision to remand for further proceedings for abuse of discretion, Harman v. Apfel, 211 F.3d 1172, 1173 (9th Cir. 2000). We affirm.
The district court did not abuse its discretion when it remanded for further administrative proceedings because outstanding issues remain in the record regarding consultative examiner Dr. Michael Kushner's opinion. See Dominguez v. Colvin, 808 F.3d 403, 408–10 (9th Cir. 2015) (affirming district court's remand for further proceedings rather than an immediate award of benefits where outstanding issues, including conflicts between the erroneously rejected opinion and other record evidence, remain unresolved); Treichler v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 775 F.3d 1090, 1104–05 (9th Cir. 2014) (affirming district court's remand for further proceedings where conflicts and ambiguities between the erroneously rejected testimony and other record evidence were unresolved). The district court found (1) that Dr. Kushner's erroneously discounted opinion was consistent, rather than inconsistent, with the treatment record and Brandon's GAF scores, and (2) that it was not clear from the record whether the ALJ would be required to find Brandon disabled once this evidence was properly evaluated, in part because no vocational expert testified. The district court properly concluded that remand was warranted for the ALJ to “reassess the evidence and provide sufficient reasons supported by the record” for rejecting Dr. Kushner's opinion.
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