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Green v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 8, 2017

LACEY ANN GREEN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert E. Jones Senior Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Lacey Green appeals the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Because the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the decision is AFFIRMED.

         PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

         Plaintiff filed concurrent applications for SSI and DIB alleging disability as of November 15, 2010 due to fibromyalgia, anxiety with panic attacks, major depressive disorder, and degenerative disc disease. Admin. R. 12, 14, 231.

         The ALJ performed the sequential analysis described in 20 C.F.R sections 404.1520 and 416.920, He found plaintiffs ability to perform basic work activities limited by fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks. Admin. R. 14. The ALJ found that, despite these impairments, plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a range of light, simple, and routine work involving limited climbing and crawling, in a work setting that does not require frequent or close contact with co-workers, teamwork, or collaboration with others. Admin. R. 16.

         The ALJ elicited testimony from a vocational expert (VE), who said that a person with plaintiffs RFC and vocational factors could perform light, unskilled occupations such as mailroom clerk and small product assembler, representing several hundred thousand jobs in the national economy. Admin. R. 23, 64-65. The ALJ therefore concluded plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Admin. R. 23-24.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on the proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). "Substantial evidence" means "more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance." Bray v. Comm 'r, 554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009). It means "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id.

         Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's conclusion must be upheld. Btirch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). Variable interpretations of the evidence are insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is a rational reading of the record, and this Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. See Batson v. Comm V, 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). "However, a reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence." Orn v. Astnte, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007). The reviewing court, however, may not affirm the Commissioner on a ground upon which the Commissioner did not rely. Id.; see also Bray, 554 F.3d at 1226.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Claims of Error

         Plaintiff argues the Commissioner erred by (1) improperly evaluating the medical opinion of treating physician William Barth, M.D.; (2) rejecting her subjective symptom testimony; (3) rejecting the lay witness testimony; and (4) improperly relying on the VE testimony at step five.

         II. Medical Opinion Evidence

         Dr. Barth was plaintiffs treating physician. In 2012, he opined that plaintiff was limited by pain to one hour or less of sitting, standing, and walking. Admin. R. 330-31. Dr. Barth also stated that plaintiff could not lift or carry over 20 pounds and that her ability to travel was limited by pain. Dr. Barth attributed these limitations to plaintiffs degenerative disc disease with peripheral neuropathy, and chronic depression, Admin. R. 21, 330, 331. ...


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