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Eyers v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 25, 2014

KATHLEEN FAYE EYERS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.

KATHRYN TASSINARI, ROBERT A BARON Harder, Wells, Baron & Manning, P.C. Eugene, OR, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

S. AMANDA MARSHALL United States Attorney, ADRIAN L. BROWN Assistant United States Attorney Portland, OR, DAVID MORADO, Regional Chief Counsel, GERALD J. HILL, LARS J. NELSON, Assistant Regional Counsel, Social Security Administration Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANNA J. BROWN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kathleen Faye Eyers 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 decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Following a thorough review of the record, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS this matter pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further administrative proceedings.

ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

Plaintiff filed her application for DIB on June 23, 2009. Tr. 11. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on June 7, 2011. Tr. 11. At the hearing Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. Plaintiff testified at the hearing. Tr. 11.

The ALJ issued a decision on July 26, 2011, in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 17. That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on September 20, 2012, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 2.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on June 29, 1961, and was 49 years old at the time of the hearing. Tr. 16, 43. Plaintiff completed two years of college. Tr. 168. Plaintiff's date last insured was June 30, 2005. Tr. 170.

Plaintiff alleges disability since December 30, 1997, due to migraine headaches. Tr. 145-46.

Except when noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. After carefully reviewing the medical records, this Court adopts the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. See Tr. 13-17.

STANDARDS

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 her 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).

DISABILITY ANALYSIS

I. The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation

The Commissioner has developed a five-step sequential inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act. Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). See also 20 ...


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