United States District Court, D. Oregon
DONALD L. CRUM, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
Kathryn Tassinari Drew L. Johnson Drew L. Johnson, P.C.
Attorneys for Plaintiff.
J. Williams Janice E. Hebert U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Oregon Heather L. Griffith Social Security
Administration Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION & ORDER
A. HERNÁNDEZ United States District Judge
Donald Crum brings this action for judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision denying his application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act and for Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social
Security Act. The Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)).
The Court reverses the Commissioner's decision and
remands this case for an immediate award of benefits.
was born in 1962 and was 51 years old at the time of his
administrative hearing. Tr. 78. He earned a GED and has past work
experience as a roofer, meat trimmer, and power shovel
operator. Tr. 79-80, 95-96. Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI
benefits on September 20, 2011, alleging a disability onset
date of September 17, 2011, due to lower-back and hip
problems. Tr. 57, 190-94, 216. The Commissioner initially
denied his application and Plaintiff requested a hearing. Tr.
129-151, 163. An administrative hearing was held on September
26, 2013, before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Marilyn S. Mauer. Tr. 76. On March 10, 2014, ALJ Mauer issued
a written decision denying Plaintiff's application. Tr.
57-67. Plaintiff's request for review of the decision was
denied by the Appeals Counsel on November 24, 2015, making
the ALJ's opinion the Commissioner's final decision
that Plaintiff now challenges in this Court. Tr. 1-7.
claimant is disabled if he is unable 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). Disability claims are evaluated according to a
five-step procedure. Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009). The claimant
bears the ultimate burden of proving disability. Id.
first step, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” If so,
the claimant is not disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
416.920(b). 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. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If
not, the claimant is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether claimant's
impairments, singly or in combination, meet or equal
“one of a number of listed impairments that the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity.” Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if
not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant,
despite any impairment(s), has the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform “past relevant
work.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).
If the claimant can, the claimant is not disabled. If the
claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts
to the Commissioner. At step five, the Commissioner must
establish that the claimant can perform other work.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the
Commissioner meets his burden and proves that the claimant is
able to perform other work which exists in the national
economy, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status
requirements and had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since September 17, 2011. Tr. 59. At step two, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “severe degenerative disc disease of the
lumbar spine with few clinical signs; osteoarthritis of the
right knee with meniscal tear; and obesity.”
Id. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met
or equaled the severity of the listed impairments. Tr. 61.
found that Plaintiff had the following RFC:
[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to lift
and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently. He can sit, stand, and walk each six hours in an
eight our day, for a combined total of eight hours of
activity. He requires the option to sit or stand at will
while still performing essential tasks. He can occasionally
climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, and he can occasionally
climb ramps and stairs. He can occasionally stoop, crouch,
crawl, and kneel. The Claimant can frequently balance. He
must avoid exposure to vibration and he should have no more
than occasional exposure to hazards such as unprotected
heights and large moving equipment.
Tr. 62. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could not
perform any past relevant work. Tr. 65-66. At step five, the
ALJ found that given Plaintiff's background and
limitations, he could perform jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy including ticket
seller, cashier, and small products assembler. Tr. 66-67. The
ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. Tr. 67.
may set aside the Commissioner's denial of benefits only
when the Commissioner's findings are based on legal error
or are not supported by substantial evidence in the record as
a whole. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th
Cir. 2009). “Substantial evidence means more than a
mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted). Courts consider the
record as a whole, including both the evidence that supports
and detracts from the Commissioner's decision.
Id.; Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028,
1035 (9th Cir. 2007). “Where the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the
ALJ's decision must be affirmed.” Vasquez,
572 F.3d at 591 (internal quotation marks omitted); see