United States District Court. D. Oregon, Eugene Division
MARJ A. THYGESEN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
ROBERT E. JONES, Senior District Judge.
Plaintiff Mari Thygesen appeals the Commissioner's decision to deny her application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. The court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). I AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.
Thygesen filed a previous claim alleging disability from hypersensitivity to chemicals in environmental substances including molds, dust, fumes, and odors. The Commissioner denied that application when an ALJ determined that Thygesen was not disabled at any time up to and including September 23, 2004. Admin. R. 13, 72-85. That decision created a presumption of continuing nondisability which Thygesen must overcome by demonstrating that her condition changed since the decision. Chavez v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 691, 693 (9th Cir. 1988).
In her present claim, Thygesen alleged disability beginning October 1, 2004, one week after the previous determination that she was not disabled. She claimed the same hypersensitivity to chemicals and newly developed sensitivity to electromagnetic fields. Admin. R. 13, 166, 185. Thygesen's insured status under the Social Security Act expired on June 30, 2009. Admin. R. 15. She must establish that she became disabled on or before that date to prevail on her claim. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1)(A). Tidwellv. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th Cir. 1998). Accordingly, the relevant period for the present appeal runs from October 1, 2004 through June 30, 2009.
The ALJ applied the five-step disability determination process described in the regulations. Admin. R. 13-21. The ALJ found that, during the relevant period, Thygesen's ability to perform basic work was limited by multiple chemical sensitivity disorder ("MCS") and somatoform disorder. Admin. R. 15. The ALJ determined that, despite her impairments, Thygesen retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform work at all levels of exertion, but could not work around new carpets or in environments that involved any exposure to molds or significant exposure to dust, odors, fumes, or gases. In addition, the ALJ found Thygesen could only work in situations where she could avoid contact with the public and limit interactions with coworkers to brief, superficial contact. Admin. R. 17.
The vocational expert ("VE") testified that a person with Thygesen's vocational factors and RFC would be able to perform the activities required in occupations such as small products assembler and meter reader which represent approximately 90, 000 jobs in the national economy. Admin. R. 20-21. The ALJ concluded that Thygesen had failed to show that she was disabled during the time that is relevant for her claim. Admin. R. 21.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). Substantial evidence need not be a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). The Commissioner's factual findings must be upheld if supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record, even if another rational interpretation is also supported. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995).
I. Claims of Error
Thygesen contends the ALJ improperly discounted the credibility of her subjective statements and rejected the opinion of David Buscher, M.D. As a result, Thygesen claims, the ALJ reached an RFC assessment that did not accurately reflect all of her limitations.
II. Credibility Determination
In her most recent application, Thygesen alleged she could no longer work due to "chemical/electrical sensitivity." Admin. R. 185. She alleged she could not work around mold, certain fibers, mothballs, electrical devices, or magnetic fields. Admin. R. 202-203. Thygesen said that her chemical sensitivities remained about the same as they were when the previous ALJ issued his decision. Admin. R. 43. Thus, she continued to be affected by mold and strong odors from ...