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Stanley v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division

March 23, 2017

JOANN ROSE RYAN STANLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael W. Mosman Chief United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Joann Ryan Stanley[1] challenges the Commissioner's decision denying her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits. I have jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ) decision. For the reasons stated below, I AFFIRM the ALJ's decision.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Ms. Stanley filed her application for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits to the Commissioner on August 1, 2012, alleging a disability onset date of August 1, 2002. The claim was initially denied on January 31, 2013, and again upon reconsideration on May 29, 2013. Ms. Stanley then filed a timely request on August 2, 2013, for a hearing to review the Commissioner's decision. An ALJ held a hearing on February 10, 2014, after which Ms. Stanley amended her alleged onset date to May 4, 2012. The ALJ subsequently issued a decision on April 21, 2014, which denied Ms. Stanley's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits on the basis that she was not disabled, as defined by the Social Security Act, during the period of May 4, 2012 to June 30, 2012.

         THE ALJ'S FINDINGS

         The ALJ made his decision based upon the five-step sequential evaluation process established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (establishing the five-step evaluative process for SSI claims).

         At Step One, the ALJ determined that Ms. Stanley did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from her amended alleged onset date of May 4, 2012, through her date last insured of June 30, 2012.

         At Step Two, the ALJ determined that Ms. Stanley had the following severe impairments: history of acute myocardial infarction, obesity, bradycardia/hypotension, and recurrent angina.

         At Step Three, the ALJ determined that, as of her date last insured, Ms. Stanley did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment under 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P.

         Next, the ALJ determined that Ms. Stanley had the residual functional capacity to perform medium work, with the restrictions that she could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds more than occasionally and that she could not climb ramps, or stairs more than frequently.

         At Step Four, the ALJ determined that Ms. Stanley did not have past relevant work.

         Finally, at Step Five, the ALJ determined that, given Ms. Stanley's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that she could have performed as of her date last insured. Specifically, the Vocational Expert testified that Ms. Stanley could work as a cleaner, laundry worker, or hand packager. Therefore, she was not disabled, as defined by the Social Security Act, at any time through her date last insured.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         I review the ALJ's decision to ensure the ALJ applied proper legal standards and that the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Bray v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009) (explaining that the ALJ's decision must be supported by substantial evidence and not based on legal error). “‘Substantial evidence' means more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). The Commissioner's decision must be upheld if it is a rational interpretation of the evidence, even if there are other possible rational interpretations. Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882.

         DISCUSSION

         Ms. Stanley argues the ALJ erred as a matter of law in denying her claim for disability benefits because his decision is not supported by substantial evidence in the record. Specifically, she alleges the ALJ failed to (1) give adequate weight to the opinion of her treating physician, (2) adequately assess her credibility, (3) adequately determine her residual functional capacity based on limitations from all of her impairments, and (4) meet his burden at Step Five of showing there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that she could perform. Despite these arguments, I find that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record.

         I. The ALJ's Treatment of the Treating Physician's Opinion

         Ms. Stanley argues that the ALJ erred as a matter of law by failing to give adequate weight to the opinion of her treating physician, Dr. Oelke, who completed a medical impairment questionnaire for this claim. Specifically, Ms. Stanley argues the ALJ erred by failing to give specific and ...


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