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Forester v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 27, 2014

LAURA. D. FORESTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration [1], Defendant

Page 1118

For Plaintiff: SHARON MAYNARD, Bennett, Hartman, Morris & Kaplan, LLP, Portland, OR.

For Defendant: S. AMANDA MARSHALL, United States Attorney, RONALD K. SILVER, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, OR; JORDAN D. GODDARD, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Social Security Administration, Seattle, WA.

OPINION

Page 1119

OPINION AND ORDER

JAMES A. REDDEN, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Laura Deanne Forester seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration

Page 1120

(SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act and Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

Following a review of the record, the Court REVERSES the decision of the Commissioner and REMANDS this matter for the calculation and payment of benefits pursuant to Sentence Four, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

Plaintiff filed her applications for SSI and DIB on November 20, 2008, and alleged a disability onset date of November 1, 2008. Tr. 134.[2] The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on March 1, 2011. Tr. 38-77. At the hearing Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified.

The ALJ issued a decision on March 10, 2011, in which she found Plaintiff was not disabled because, although she could not perform her past relevant work, she could perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy as a motel house keeper or garment sorter. Tr. 29. That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.

Plaintiff now seeks review in this Court.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born in 1972, and was 38 years old on the date of the ALJ's decision. Tr. 134. She has a Juris doctorate degree. Tr. 42. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a customer service supervisor and an appeals and grievance specialist. Tr. 67.

Plaintiff alleges disability due to bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Tr. 165.

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)).

Page 1121

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 (9th Cir. 2006).

ALJ'S FINDINGS

At Step One the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her November 1, 2008, onset date. Tr. 23.

At Step Two the ALJ found Plaintiff had the severe impairments of " bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ...


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