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Smith v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Pendleton Division

November 19, 2014

JEFFREY B. SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT E. JONES, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Jeffrey Bryan Smith appeals the Commissioner's decision denying his application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. The comt has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). I AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

Smith alleged disability beginning November 11, 2004, due to the combined effects of a left shoulder condition that required three surgeries, diabetes, hypertension, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Admin. R. 114, 139. The Commissioner denied Smith's claim. On appeal to this court, the parties stipulated to remand for further administrative proceedings. Admin. R. 530-34.

In the proceedings after remand, the ALJ applied the sequential disability determination process described in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). The ALJ found Smith's ability to perform basic work activities limited by the combined effects of obesity, a left shoulder rotator cuff tear, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension. Admin. R. 446. The ALJ found that, despite his impairments, Smith retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to lift, carry, push, and pull up to 10 pounds and to stand, walk, or sit for up to six hours each during a typical day. The ALJ found that Smith had no useful extension of his left arm, but could grip and manipulate objects with his left hand occasionally. Admin. R. 446.

The ALJ heard testimony from a vocational expert who said that a person of Smith's age, education, work experience, and RFC could perform light occupations such as gate guard or security guard, and sedentary occupations such as surveillance system monitor. The vocational expert said these occupations represented several hundred thousand jobs in the national economy. Admin. R. 452, 504-506. The ALJ concluded that Smith was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Admin. R. 453.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if she applied the proper legal standards and if substantial evidence in the record as a whole supports the findings of fact. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). Under this standard, the court will uphold the Commissioner's factual findings if supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record even if evidence exists to support another rational interpretation. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995).

DISCUSSION

I. Claims of Error

Smith contends the ALJ failed to comply with remand instructions to consider the effects of his obesity in assessing his RFC. Smith also contends the ALJ improperly applied the rules in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2 ("Medical Vocational Guidelines").

II. Compliance with Court's Remand Order

The remand order instructed the ALJ to reconsider Smith's RFC and to account for any functional limitations arising from obesity. Admin. R. 531. The ALJ's decision shows that he considered all the evidence of Smith's obesity and all the evidence of his functional limitations. He raised the issue of obesity at the hearing after remand. Admin. R. 487-88. He noted that the medical evidence showed a progressive weight gain attributed to Smith's inability to exercise due to shoulder pain. Admin. R. 448. He acknowledged that Smith was morbidly obese and that his doctors believed his overall medical condition would improve with weight loss. Admin. R. 448-49. He found that obesity was among the combined impairments that limited his ability to do basic work activities. Admin. R. 446.

The ALJ assessed Smith with the RFC to perform less than the full range of light work. Admin. R. 446. In doing so, the ALJ said that "the reduced range of light work, as identified in the residual functional capacity above, provides accommodation for the claimant's obesity." Admin. R. ...


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