MICHAEL L. WARNER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ALAN STUART GRAF, P.C. Summertown, TN, Attorney for Plaintiff
S. AMANDA MARSHALL, United States Attorney, ADRIAN L. BROWN, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, OR, DAVID MORADO, Regional Chief Counsel JORDAN D. GODDARD Special Assistant United States Attorney Social Security Administration Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
ANNA J. BROWN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Michael L. Warner seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Following a review of the record, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.
Plaintiff filed applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and DIB on October 20, 2008, and alleged a disability onset date of January 10, 1999. Tr. 141-50. Plaintiff's claim for SSI benefits was denied on October 27, 2008, due to excessive income ($942.00 per month). Tr. 81-88. That determination was not appealed.
Plaintiff's application for DIB was denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on November 2, 2010. Tr. 31-78. At the hearing Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified.
The ALJ issued a decision on November 17, 2010, in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled because he could perform his past relevant work as a security guard and protective officer as he had performed the jobs. Tr. 20. That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on February 23, 2012, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-4.
On April 30, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.
Plaintiff was born on August 3, 1950, and was 60 years old at the time of the November 2010 hearing. Tr. 141. Plaintiff has a high-school education. Tr. 38, 189. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a protective officer, a finish carpenter, and a security guard. Tr. 251.
Plaintiff alleges disability due to degenerative neck disease, arthritis, shoulder problems, carpal tunnel, bone spurs, lower-back problems, and acid reflux. Tr. 183.
The initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012). To meet this burden, a claimant must demonstrate his inability "to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which... has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The ALJ must develop the record when there is ambiguous evidence or when the record is inadequate to allow for proper evaluation of the evidence. McLeod v. Astrue, 640 F.3d 881, 885 (9th Cir. 2011)(quoting Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459-60 (9th Cir. 2001)).
The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See also Brewes v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is "relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Molina, 674 F.3d. at 1110-11 (quoting Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 690 (9th Cir. 2009)). It is more than a mere scintilla [of evidence] but less than a preponderance. Id. (citing Valentine, 574 F.3d at 690).
The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in the medical evidence, and resolving ambiguities. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009). The court must weigh all of the evidence whether it supports or detracts from the Commissioner's decision. Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008). Even when the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must uphold the Commissioner's findings if they are supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record. Ludwig v. Astrue, 681 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2012). The court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1070 (9th Cir. 2006).
I. The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation
At Step One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(I). See also Keyser v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011).
At Step Two the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner determines the claimant does not have any medically severe impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509, 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.
At Step Three the claimant is disabled if the Commissioner determines the claimant's impairments meet or equal one of the listed impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724. The criteria for the listed impairments, known as ...