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Calder v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 23, 2014

CRAIG W. CALDER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Drew L. Johnson, Kathryn Tassinari, Drew L. Johnson, P.C., Eugene, Oregon, Attorneys for plaintiff.

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

Sarah L. Martin, Special Assistant United States Attorney Social Security Administration, Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANN AIKEN, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Craig Calder brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act ("Act") to obtain judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's ("Commissioner") final decision denying his applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI"). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case is dismissed.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 5, 2008, plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI, initially alleging disability as of March 1, 2007. Tr. 149, 152. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 92-99. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). Tr. 105-06. On January 5, 2011 and July 22, 2011, ALJ hearings were held before the Honorable Marilyn Mauer. Tr. 8-21, 48-87. At the second hearing, plaintiff amended his alleged onset date to October 1, 2010. Tr. 16. Plaintiff testified at both hearings, along with a vocational expert ("VE"), and was represented by counsel. Tr. 9, 16, 49. On September 29, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled under the Act. Tr. 26-37. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review and plaintiff then filed a complaint before this Court. Tr. 1-4.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Plaintiff was born on August 15, 1958 and was 52 years-old on the amended alleged onset date of disability, as well as at the time of both hearings. Tr. 54, 149. Plaintiff completed the eleventh grade in high school and has no past relevant work, due in part to his history of incarceration. Tr. 36, 176. He alleges that he is unable to work due to mental illness, back pain, and permanent brain damage from an overdose on medication. Tr. 171, 465.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The 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. 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 Co. v. N.L.R.B. , 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).

The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish disability. Howard v. Heckler , 782 F.2d 1484, 1486 (9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant must demonstrate an "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected... to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

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. §§ 416.920, 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. § 416.920(b), 404.1520(b). 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. § 416.920(c), 404.1520(c). 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... are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity." Yuckert , 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d),

404.1520(d). If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the Commissioner proceeds to step ...


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