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Eggemeyer v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 15, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Juliana E. Coons, Coons & Coons, Eugene, Oregon, Attorney for plaintiff.

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

Sarah L. Martin, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel, Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for defendant.


ANN AIKEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Karl Eggemeyer brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act ("Act") to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application for Title XVI supplemental security income ("SSI") under the Act. For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case is dismissed.


On September 30, 2009, plaintiff applied for SSI. Tr. 148-55. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 104-08, 112-17. On July 26, 2011, an administrative hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), wherein plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified, as did a vocational expert ("VE"). Tr. 33-98, 118, 123-28. On December 20, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff disabled for the closed period of August 26, 2008, through January 14, 2010, but thereafter experienced medical improvement. Tr. 11-32. After the Appeals Council denied his request for review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court. Tr. 1-4.


Born on June 1, 1980, plaintiff was 28 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 31 years old at the time of the hearing. Tr. 37, 148. Plaintiff graduated from high school, although he was in special education classes and received a modified diploma, and attended approximately two years of college. Tr. 26, 44, 62, 169, 171, 205-06, 248. He was previously employed as a fast food worker, sales person, welder, and laborer. Tr. 25, 89-93, 165, 172. Plaintiff alleges disability as of August 26, 2008, due to a traumatic back injury, which resulted in degenerative disc disease ("DDD") and post laminectomy syndrome; he also alleges disability due to diabetes, obesity, asthma, depression, and borderline intellectual functioning. Tr. 47-48, 148, 164; see also Pl.'s Opening Br. 4.


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). Variable interpretations of the evidence are insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is rational. See Burch v. Barnhart , 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).

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. First, the Commissioner evaluates whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." Yuckert , 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(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). If the claimant does not have a severe impairment, he is not disabled.

At step three, the Commissioner resolves whether the claimant's impairments, either singly or in combination, meet or equal "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. § 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is ...

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