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Robinson v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

July 29, 2014

HOWARD ENZIO ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN V. ACOSTA, Magistrate Judge.

Howard Robinson ("plaintiff") seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Because the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the decision is AFFIRMED.

Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed his application for DIB on October 6, 2009, alleging disability as of July, 1990. (Tr. 22.) The Commissioner denied his application initially and upon reconsideration, and he requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. 86-87.) At the hearing before the ALJ, plaintiff amended his alleged onset date to November 27, 2006. (Tr. 39.) After the administrative hearing, the ALJ issued a decision on August 12, 2011, finding plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 22-29.) The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's subsequent request for review, making the ALJ's decision final. (Tr. 1-3.) Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of that decision.

Factual Background

Born in December, 1953, plaintiff was 53 years old on his date last insured of March 31, 2007. (Tr. 140.) He alleges disability as of November 27, 2006, due to bipolar disorder, diminishing vision, and high blood pressure. (Tr. 22, 152.) Plaintiff speaks English and has past work experience as an accountant, a data enterer, and a writer. (Tr. 39-40.)

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). "Where the evidence as a whole can support either a grant or a denial, [a court] may not substitute [its] judgment for the ALJ's." Massachi v. Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).

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"; if so, the claimant is not disabled. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).

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. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.

At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the impairment meets or equals "one of a number of listed impairments that the Secretary acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity." Id. ; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.

At step four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant can still perform "past relevant work." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). If the claimant can work, she is not disabled; if she cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141. At step five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can perform other work. Id. at 142; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e) & (f). If the Commissioner meets this burden and proves ...


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