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Carter v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

September 25, 2014

GAYLON EDWARD EUGENE CARTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Randy Elmer, Salem, OR, Of Attorney for Plaintiff.

S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, and Ronald K. Silver, Assistant United States Attorney, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, District of Oregon, Portland, OR, Kathy Reif Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Seattle, WA, Of Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL H. SIMON, District Judge.

Gaylon Edward Eugene Carter seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act. For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on the proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). "Substantial evidence" means "more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance." Bray v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995)). It means "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. (quoting Andrews, 53 F.3d at 1039).

Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's conclusion must be upheld. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). Variable interpretations of the evidence are insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is a rational reading of the record, and this Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. See Batson v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). "[A] reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence." Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (quotation marks omitted)). A reviewing court, however, may not affirm the Commissioner on a ground upon which the Commissioner did not rely. Id. ; see also Bray, 554 F.3d at 1226.

BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Application

Plaintiff was born on October 28, 1958 and is 55 years old. He was employed as a warehouse worker until August of 2009. AR 75. In January of 2009, Plaintiff had surgery for shoulder impingement and a tear of his labrum, but returned to work the following month. AR 22. In August of 2009, an MRI revealed that Plaintiff required further shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff, a full thickness tear of his supraspinatus tendon, and acromioclavicular joint degeneration. Id. After this surgery, Plaintiff was unable to return to work. AR 40.

Plaintiff filed for disability insurance benefits on September 9, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of August 4, 2009. AR 20. He alleged disability based on shoulder impingement, psoriasis, and obesity. Id. Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on October 29, 2010, and upon reconsideration on January 20, 2011. AR 18. An administrative hearing was held on August 10, 2010. Id. The ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim, finding he was not disabled, as defined under the Social Security Act, at any time from August 4, 2009, the alleged onset date, through the date of the decision. AR 26. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision final and entitling Plaintiff to review in this court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). AR 1.

B. The Sequential Analysis

A claimant is disabled if he or she is unable 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). "Social Security Regulations set out a five-step sequential process for determining whether an applicant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act." Keyser v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 (DIB), 416.920 (SSI); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). Each step is potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The five-step sequential process asks the following series of questions:

1. Is the claimant performing "substantial gainful activity?" 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). This activity is work involving significant mental or physical duties done or intended to be done for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1510, 416.910. If the claimant is performing such work, she is not disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), ...

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