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Sanders v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

July 7, 2015

ROGER SANDERS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

BRUCE W. BREWER, West Linn, OR, Attorney for Plaintiff.

BILLY J. WILLIAMS, Acting United States Attorney, RONALD K. SILVER, Assistant United States Attorney Portland, OR, DAVID MORADO, Regional Chief Counsel, LISA GOLDOFTAS, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANNA J. BROWN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Roger Sanders seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

For the reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner and DISMISSES this matter.

ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on October 5, 2004, alleging a disability onset date of September 28, 1990. Tr. 1019.[1] The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on April 30, 2008. Tr. 983-1015. At the hearing Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. Plaintiff, a medical expert (ME), and a vocational expert (VE) testified at the hearing.

The ALJ issued a decision on June 27, 2008, in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled before his December 31, 1999, date last insured, and, therefore, was not entitled to DIB. Tr. 10-22. Plaintiff appealed the matter to the United States District Court. On October 20, 2011, United States Magistrate Judge Paul Papak entered a Judgment of Remand in which he remanded the matter to the ALJ

to further consider Plaintiff's date last insured as it appears it is December 31, 1991, and not December 31, 1999, as found in the decision. Further, the Administrative Law Judge shall obtain additional vocational expert testimony at step 5 regarding the number of jobs available and the support for any jobs that are inconsistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Plaintiff will have the Opportunity for a de novo hearing.

Tr. 1029.

On March 6, 2012, the Appeals Council entered an order in which it remanded the matter to the ALJ noting:

[A] review of the Social Security earnings record reflects that the claimant is actually so last insured on December 31, 1991.... Thus, the claim for [DIB] should only be adjudicated through December 31, 1991.... Moreover, ... supplemental vocational expert evidence is needed regarding consistency with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.

Tr. 1040.

An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on remand on October 29, 2013, regarding Plaintiff's disability during the closed period of September 28, 1990, through December 31, 1991. Tr. 1104-18. At the hearing Plaintiff was represented by an attorney and a VE testified. On December 9, 2013, an ALJ issued a decision on remand in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled between September 28, 1990, and December 31, 1991, and, therefore, he was not entitled to DIB benefits for the closed period. Tr. 1016-28. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.984(d), that decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-4. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born August 18, 1951; was 56 years old at the time of the first hearing; and was 62 years old at the time of the second hearing. Tr. 48. Plaintiff completed high school. Tr. 1027. Plaintiff does not have any past relevant work experience. Tr. 1027.

Plaintiff alleges disability during the relevant period due to degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine. Tr. 1022.

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. 1024-26.

STANDARDS

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, ...


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