United States District Court, D. Oregon
MERRILL SCHNEIDER Attorneys for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney, JANICE E. HEBERT
Assistant United States Attorney, ERIN F. HIGHLAND Special
Assistant United States Attorney Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
Malcolm F. Marsh United States District Judge
Benjamin Owen Marks, brings this action for judicial review
of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(the "Commissioner") denying Plaintiffs application
for supplemental social security ("SSI") under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the "Act").
This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). For the reasons that follow, the final decision of
the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
March 24, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI
alleging disability beginning February 1, 2009, with a
protective filing date of February 12, 2010. Tr. 305-308.
Plaintiff alleged disability due to psoriatic arthritis,
depression, bi-polar disorder, plantar fasciitis, and torn
meniscus in the right knee. Tr. 332. Plaintiffs application
was denied initially and upon reconsideration, and Plaintiff
requested a hearing. Tr. 133-166, 201-204.
January 27, 2012, a hearing was held before Administrative
Law Judge ("ALJ") Paul G. Robeck. Tr. 51-94.
OnFebruary 10, 2012, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled
within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 164-181.
filed a request for review by the Appeals Council, and on
June 6, 2013, the Appeals Council remanded the case to the
ALJ. Tr. 182-185, 242. On November 15, 2013, and on February
25, 2014, hearings were held before ALJ Robeck. Tr. 42-50,
95-132. On March 20, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision denying
Plaintiffs application. Tr. 19-36. Plaintiff requested review
of the ALJ's decision, which the Appeals Council denied
on September 17, 2015. Tr. 1-6. Accordingly, the ALJ's
March 20, 2014, decision became the final decision of the
1961, Plaintiff was 47 years old on February 1, 2009, the
alleged disability onset date. Tr. 328. Plaintiff has a high
school diploma and several years of college. Tr. 55.
Plaintiff has past relevant work as a social service aide.
ALJ'S DISABILITY ANALYSIS
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process
for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v), Each step is potentially dispositive.
The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through
four. Tackett v. Apfell 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th
Cir. 1999). The burden shifts to the Commissioner at step
five to show that a significant number of jobs exist in the
national economy that the claimant can perform.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-142; Tackett, 180
F.3d at 1098.
one, the Commissioner determined that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 12,
2010, the application date. Tr. 21, At step two, the ALJ
found Plaintiff suffered from the following severe
impairments: arthritis of the bilateral hands; obesity; mild
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and thoracic spine;
and mild degenerative joint disease of the right knee. Tr.
22. The ALJ noted that other symptoms and complaints appear
in the medical treatment records periodically, but that there
is nothing to show that they are more than transient or that
they cause significant vocational limitations, and any such
impairments are not severe because no objective acceptable
medical documentation supports such a finding. Tr. 22. The
ALJ also found Plaintiff suffered from medically determinable
mental impairments of depressive disorder, antisocial
personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and
history of intravenous methamphetamine use, but that
considered singly and in combination, these impairments do
not cause more than minimal limitation in Plaintiffs ability
to perform basic mental work activities, and are therefore
non-severe. Tr. 22.
three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meet or
medically equal any listed impairment. Tr. 27. The ALJ then
found Plaintiff has the following residual functional
[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except:
occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl;
no climbing of ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; and no more
than frequent handling and fingering.
four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff retained the ability
to perform the requirements of his past relevant work as a
social service aide. Tr. 35. Accordingly, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr.
argues the ALJ erred in five respects: (1) in discrediting
Plaintiffs testimony; (2) in discrediting the testimony of
lay witness Teresa Mattingly; (3) in failing to adequately
consider the medical opinions of treating physician Kenneth
Scalapino, M.D., and examining physicians John Ellison, M.D.,
and Ronald D, Duvall, Ph.D.; (4) in improperly rejecting
severe impairments at step two; and (5) in failing to conduct
an adequate analysis at steps four and five, STANDARD OF
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
the Commissioner applied proper legal standards and the
findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Berry v. Astrue, 622 F.3d
1228, 1231 (9th Cir. 2010). "Substantial evidence is
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." Hill v.
Astrue,698 F.3d 1153 1159 (2012) (internal quotations
omitted); Valentine v. Commissioner Social Sec.
Admin.,574 F.3d 685, 690 (9th Cir. 2009). The court
must weigh all the evidence, whether it supports or detracts
from the Commissioner's decision. Martinez v.
Heckler,807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). The
Commissioner's decision must be upheld, even if the
evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation. Batson v. Commissioner Soc. Sec.
Admin,,359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). ...