United States District Court, D. Oregon
H. Peter Evans, Law Office of H. Peter Evans, Portland, Oregon, Attorney for plaintiff.
Billy Williams, Ronald K. Silver, United States Attorney's Office, Portland, Oregon, Nancy A. Mishalanie, Social Security Administration, Office of General Counsel, Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
ANN AIKEN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Jeffrey Marshall 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"). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application for Title II disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case is dismissed.
This case has a long procedural history. Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on April 15, 2003. Tr. 74. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. After a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued a decision on September 29, 2006, finding plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 74-82. Plaintiff did not seek review of that decision.
On June 7, 2010, plaintiff filed a new application for DIB. Tr. 178-84. After the application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an ALJ. Tr. 88-94, 95-101, 115-16. On February 23 and June 5, 2012, administrative hearings were held, wherein plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified, as did a vocational expert. Tr. 29-43, 44-59. On July 19, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 15-21. The Appeals Council granted plaintiff's request for review and affirmed the ALJ's finding. Tr. 3-5. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
Born on December 3, 1957, plaintiff was 48 years old on the amended alleged onset date of disability and 54 years old at the time of the second and third hearings. Tr. 48. Plaintiff graduated from high school and attended two years of college. Tr. 81, 272. He worked previously as an excavator and owned his own business. Tr. 48, 50. Plaintiff initially asserted disability as of April 1, 2003; however, he amended the onset date to September 30, 2006, to coincide with the previously-adjudicated period. Tr. 47-48. Plaintiff alleges disability due to numbness in his hands and legs, gout, diabetes, and neck, back, shoulder, and knee pain. Tr. 34-35, 271.
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) (citation and internal quotations omitted). 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). 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. § 404.1502. First, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled.
At step two, the Commissioner evaluates 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 the claimant ...