United States District Court, D. Oregon
PAMELA J. BAHLES Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
M. REBERS, Attorney for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney District of Oregon
E. HEBERT Assistant United States Attorney
GOLDOFTAS Special Assistant United States Attorney Office of
the General Counsel Social Security Administration, Attorneys
OPINION AND ORDER
Malcolm F. Marsh, United States District Judge
Pamela J. Bahles seeks judicial review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her
application for aperiod of disability and disability
insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-403. This
Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C, § 405(g).
For the reasons that follow, the decision of the Commissioner
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
protectively filed her application for a period of disability
and DIB benefits on September 27, 2012, alleging disability
beginning July 5, 2001, due to back pain, neck pain, and hip
and leg problems. Tr. Soc. Sec. Admin. R. ("Tr.")
at 12, 67, 69, ECFNo. 11. Plaintiffs claims were denied
initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff filed a request
for a hearing before an administrative law judge ("
ALJ"). The ALJ held a hearing on November 14, 2014, at
which Plaintiff appeared with her attorney and testified. A
vocational expert, Lynn A. Jones, also appeared at the
hearing and testified. On December 19, 2014, the ALJ issued
an unfavorable decision. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiffs request for review, and therefore, the ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner for
purposes of review.
was bom in 1953, and was 47 years old on the alleged onset of
disability date and 53 on her date last insured. Plaintiff
completed high school, completed two years of college, and
has an associate's degree in hospitality management. Tr.
53, 157. Plaintiff has past relevant work as an office
manager, motel manager, and restaurant hostess/manager. Tr.
ALJ'S DISABILITY ANALYSIS
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process
for determining whether a person is disabled, Bowenv.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140(1987);20C.F.R.
§§404.1520, 416.920. Each step is potentially
dispositive. The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps
one through four. See Valentine v. Commissioner Soc. Sec.
Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009); Tackett
v. Apfeh 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999). At step
five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the
claimant can do other work which exists in the national
economy. Hill v. Astme, 698 F.3d 1153, 1161 (9th
found that Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements
through December 31, 2006. At step one, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since her alleged onset of disability through her date last
insured. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, mild
foraminal stenosis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. At step
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiffs impairments, or
combination of impairments, did not meet or medically equal a
assessed Plaintiff with a residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform light work with additional
limitations: Plaintiff can lift and carry up to 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; she can push and pull
up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; she
can sit six out of eight hours and stand and walk up to six
hours total out of eight hours; she can occasionally reach
overhead bilaterally; she can occasionally climb, balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; she can never work at
unprotected heights or around heavy machinery; she can never
operate a motor vehicle as part of her day-to-day job; she
must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold and
vibrations; and she can only occasionally perform bilateral
fingering. Tr. 16.
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform her
past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ found that
considering Plaintiffs age, education, work experience, and
residual functional capacity, jobs exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform,
including such representative occupations as: greeter, gate
guard, and usher. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff has not been under a disability under the Social
Security Act from July 5, 2001 through December 31, 2006.
appeal to this court, Plaintiff contends the following errors
were committed: (1) the ALJ improperly evaluated her
testimony; (2) the ALJ improperly evaluated the opinion of
Robert Hander, M.D.; and (3) the RFC fails to incorporate her
lifting, carrying, and fingering functional limitations. The
Commissioner argues that the ALJ's decision is supported
by substantial evidence and is free of legal error.
Alternatively, the Commissioner contends that even if the ALJ
erred, Plaintiff has not demonstrated harmful error.
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, 698
F.3d at 1159 (internal quotations omitted);
Valentine, 574 F.3d at 690. The court must weigh all
the evidence, whether it supports or detracts from the
Commissioner's decision. Garrison v. Colvin, 759
F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014); 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), If the evidence supports the ...