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Disney v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 10, 2017

CORA DISNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          GEORGE J. WALL Attorney for Plaintiff

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS Acting United States Attorney JANICE E. HEBERT Assistant United States Attorney

          DAVID MORADO Regional Chief Counsel LISA GOLDOFTAS Special Assistant United States Attorney Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Cora Disney seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's- application for 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).

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

         ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on October 16, 2007, and alleged a disability onset date of July 1, 1984. Tr, 21.[1] Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on May 5, 2010. Tr. 57. At the hearing Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney.

         On August 5, 2010, the ALJ issued an opinion in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, was not entitled to benefits. Tr. 57-71. At some point that decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 21. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         Plaintiff filed a second application for SSI on July 23, 2011, and alleged a disability onset date of July 1, 1984. Tr. 86. Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An ALJ held a hearing on August 6, 2014. Tr. 37-53. At the hearing Plaintiff and a VE testified. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney.

         On September 11, 2014, the ALJ issued an opinion in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, was not entitled to benefits. Tr. 21-31. On January 20, 2016, that decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-7.

         At some point Plaintiff filed a third application for SSI. The SSA approved Plaintiff s third application finding her disabled from March 10, 2016, forward. Accordingly, in this action Plaintiff challenges the Commissioner's finding that she was not disabled for the closed period of May 31, 2013, through the date of the second ALJ's decision on September 11, 2014.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on May 31, 1963, and was 50 years old at the time of the 2014 hearing. Tr. 86. Plaintiff has an eighth-grade education. Tr. 41. She does not have any past relevant work experience. Tr. 30.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a back injury, "mental health issues," and multiple personalities. Tr. 86.

         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. 24-25, 27-29.

         STANDARDS

         The initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9thCir. 2012}. To meet this burden, a claimant must demonstrate her 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).

         DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         I. The Regulatory ...


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