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Gilbert v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 31, 2015

MICHAEL E. GILBERT, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Robyn M. Rebers, Robyn M. Rebers, LLC, Attorney for plaintiff.

S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, Ronald K. Silver, Assistant United States Attorney.

Jordan D. Goddard, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Attorneys for defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANN AIKEN, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Gilbert brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act ("Act") to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for Title II disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 28, 2010, plaintiff filed this most recent application for DIB. Tr. 11, 179. After the application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). Tr. 95-110. On September 7, 2012, an ALJ hearing was held before Honorable Paul G. Robeck; plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified therein, as well as a vocational expert ("VE"). Tr. 29-61. On September 18, 2012, ALJ Robeck issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 11-22. After the Appeals Council declined review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this court. Tr. 1-11.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Plaintiff was born on December 19, 1962, and was 47 years old on the date of disability, and 49 years old at the time of the hearing. Tr. 13. Plaintiff did not complete high school but later earned his GED. Tr. 197. His prior work includes: grocery clerk, auto sales, retail sales, and gas station attendant. Tr. 20. Plaintiff alleges he became disabled on April 12, 2010 due to bipolar disorder, cervical fusion C-4 through C-7, depression, and severe anxiety. Tr. 196.

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 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 weight "both the evidence that supports and detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusions." Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 1484, 1486 (9th Cir. 1986). Variable interpretations of the evidence are insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is rational. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).

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. § 416.920. First, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled.

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. § 416.920 (c).

At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the impairment meets or equals "one of a number of listed impairments that... are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d). If so, 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." 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e). If the claimant can work, he is not disabled. If he cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. At step five, the Commissioner must establish that claimant can perform other work that exists in the national economy. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. § ...


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