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Wilson v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

December 9, 2014

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

Page 1160

For Plaintiff: KATHRYN TASSINARI, BRENT WELLS, Harder, Wells, Baron & Manning, P.C., Eugene, OR.

For Defendant: S. AMANDA MARSHALL, United States Attorney, RONALD K. SILVER, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, OR; DAVID MORADO, Regional Chief Counsel, JOHN C. LAMONT, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Social Security Administration, Seattle, WA.

Page 1161


ANNA J. BROWN, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Matthew James Wilson seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act and 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).

On October 3, 2014, the Commissioner filed a Request (#17) to Remand for further administrative proceedings. The Court took this matter under advisement on November 10, 2014.

Following a review of the record, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's decision, GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the Commissioner's Request, and REMANDS this matter for the immediate calculation and award of benefits.


Plaintiff protectively filed his applications for SSI and DIB on August 23, 2010, and alleged a disability onset date of August 28, 2006. Tr. 204, 208.[1] The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on August 7, 2012. Tr. 31-96. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at the hearing. Plaintiff, a lay witness, and a vocational expert (VE) testified at the hearing.

Page 1162

The ALJ issued a decision on September 21, 2012, in which he found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 7-24. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.984(d), that decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on August 22, 2013, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.


Plaintiff was born on July 13, 1968. Tr. 204. Plaintiff was 44 years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff graduated from high school and has two years of college. Tr. 255. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a " range cowboy," horse trainer, horse shoer, ranch hand, and tree planter. Tr. 86, 285.

Plaintiff alleges disability due to bipolar disorder, a broken back, broken limbs, muscle spasms, problems with his left shoulder, and dizziness. Tr. 254.

Except when noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. After carefully reviewing the medical records, this Court adopts the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. See Tr. 15-18.


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 his 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)). 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, 1070 (9th Cir. 2006).


I. The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation

At Step One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 ...

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