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Dalton v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 23, 2013

JERRY L. DALTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Kathryn Tassinari, Brent Wells, Harder, Wells, Baron & Manning, P.C., Eugene, Oregon, Attorneys for plaintiff.

S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, Adrian L. Brown, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, Oregon.

Lars J. Nelson, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Social Security Administration, Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANN AIKEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jerry Dalton brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act ("Act") to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner denying his application for Title II disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case is dismissed.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On November 1, 2007, plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging disability as of June 15, 2007 due to difficulty lifting heavy objects, an inability to sit or stand for prolonged periods, and chronic neck., shoulder, and back. pain. Tr. 232, 256, 262. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 104, 112. On November 2, 2009, after timely requesting a hearing, plaintiff, along with a medical expert and a vocational expert, appeared and testified before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). Tr. 28-68. On January 20, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 11-22. The Appeals Council initially granted plaintiff's request for review because a proper transcript of the November 2, 2009 hearirig could not be produced due to an inaudible recording. Tr. 96-98. A sufficient transcript was later produced and the parties stipulated that the case be reopened. See Mot. to Reopen at 2. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review.

FACTS

Born on October 6, 1966, plaintiff was forty years old on the alleged onset date and forty-three years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. Tr. 298. Plaintiff graduated from high school and has past relevant work as a motor coach service provider and wire harness builder. Tr. 48, 263.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on the proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Hammock v. Bowen , 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consol. Edison v. NLRB , 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The court must weigh "both the evidence that supports and detracts, from the [Commissioner's] conclusions." Martinez v. Heckler , 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's conclusion must be upheld. Sample v. Schweiker , 694 F.2d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 1982).

The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert , 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. First, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." Yuckert , 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a) (4) (i). If so, the claimant is not disabled. At step two, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a "medically severe impairment or combination of impairments." Yuckert , 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a) (4) (ii). If not, the claimant is not disabled.

At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the impairment meets or equals "one of a number of listed impairments that the [Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity." Yuckert , 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a) (4) (iii). If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert , 482 U.S. at 141.

At step four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant can still perform "past relevant work." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (a) (4) (iv). If the claimant can work, he is not disabled. If he cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. At step five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can perform other work that exists in the national and local economy. Yuckert , 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. § ...


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