Zavalin v. Colvin

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Disability Law
  • Date Filed: 02-20-2015
  • Case #: 13-35276
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Nguyen for the Court; Circuit Judges Gould and Christen
  • Full Text Opinion

An Administrative Law Judge must reconcile any discrepancies between a disability insurance applicant's functional capacity and testimony by a vocational expert.

Igor Zavalin was diagnosed with a variety of conditions since childhood, including cerebral palsy, balance problems, a learning disorder, and a speech impairment. Zavalin began receiving Social Security Income (“SSI”) disability when he was thirteen years old. Upon turning eighteen, the Social Security Administration had to determine his eligibility to continue SSI benefits based on the rules for adults. At a hearing overseen by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), the ALJ decided that based on the five factors used to determine disability, that Zavalin was no longer disabled. Zavalin appealed to the district court, which affirmed the ALJ’s decision. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit considered whether the ALJ correctly decided step five, which is an analysis of whether jobs exist in the national economy that Zavalin is capable of performing. The panel determined that the ALJ failed to reconcile information that Zavalin had a residual functioning capacity of performing simple, repetitive tasks and the vocational expert’s testimony, who determined Zavalin was capable of being a cashier or surveillance system monitor. These jobs require a Level 3 Reasoning on the Department of Labor’s scale. However, Zavalin’s ability to do simple, routine jobs seems more consistent with a Level 2 Reasoning. The panel found that the ALJ did not fully explain why Zavalin was considered a Level 3 Functioning, in light of his residual functioning capacity. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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