United States District Court, D. Oregon
Merrill Schneider, Schneider Kerr Law Offices, Portland, Oregon, Attorney for plaintiff.
S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, Adrian L. Brown, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, Oregon, Nancy A. Mishalanie, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Social Security Administration Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
ANN AIKEN, Chief District Judge.
Plaintiff Jason Haataja 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 application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case is dismissed.
On June 23, 2011, plaintiff protectively applied for DIB, initially alleging disability as of March 15, 2008; however, he subsequently amended his alleged onset date to November 1, 2006. Tr. 129, 131, 165. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 80-84, 86-89. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). Tr. 90-92. On July 12, 2012, an ALJ hearing was held before the Honorable Rudolph Murgo. Tr. 35-75. Plaintiff testified at the hearing, while represented by counsel, along with vocational expert ("VE") Nancy Bloom and medical expert ("ME") John Nance, Ph.D. Tr. 35-75. On September 13, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled under the Act. Tr. 20-31. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review and plaintiff then filed a complaint in this Court. Tr. 1-5.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
Born on February 19, 1982, plaintiff was 24 years old on the amended alleged onset date of disability and 30 years old at the time of the ALJ hearing. Tr. 29, 131. Plaintiff graduated from highschool and worked previously as a logger; he also served in the military. Tr. 22, 42. He alleges disability due to a post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), traumatic brain injury, back injury, knee injury, memory problems, and anxiety. Tr. 169.
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. § 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(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. § 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. § 404.1520(d). If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed ...