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Rohr v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division

April 14, 2017

MICHELE ROHR, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          YOULEE YIM YOU UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Michele Rohr (“Rohr”), seeks to reverse and remand the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security[1] (“Commissioner”) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act. This court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). In accordance with FRCP 73 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), all parties consented to allow a Magistrate Judge to enter final orders and judgment in this case (ECF #8). Because the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and free from legal error, it is AFFIRMED.

         ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

         Rohr filed her application for DIB in April 2012, alleging a disability beginning December 21, 2006, due to physical and mental impairments, including stroke, loss of vision, leg weakness, tremors, PTSD, and fatigue. Tr. 151-54, 178.[2] After the Commissioner denied her application initially (Tr. 64-74) and upon reconsideration (Tr. 76-89), Rohr requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The hearing was held on January 29, 2014. Tr. 36. At the hearing, Rohr amended her alleged onset date to June 7, 2010, a date roughly corresponding with her treatment with Oregon Neurosurgery Specialists following an apparent stroke on May 31, 2010.[3] Tr. 40.

         On March 6, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding Rohr not disabled. Tr. 29. The Appeals Council denied Rohr's subsequent request for review on July 7, 2015, and the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision subject to review by this court. Tr. 1-3; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 422.210.

         BACKGROUND

         Born in July 1972, Rohr was 37 on her amended alleged onset date. Tr. 174. She speaks English and completed two years of college in 2001. Tr. 177, 179. She has past work experience as a certified medical assistant and as a certified nursing assistant. Tr. 179.

         ALJ'S FINDINGS

         Disability is the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or 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). The ALJ engages in a five-step sequential inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.

         At step one, the ALJ found that Rohr had not engaged in substantial gainful activity after her amended alleged onset date of June 7, 2010. Tr. 18. At step two, the ALJ found that Rohr has the following severe impairments: cervical degenerative disc disease, status-post stroke, migraine headaches, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and right foot drop. Id. At step three, the ALJ found Rohr did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a listed impairment. Tr. 19.

         The ALJ next assessed Rohr's RFC, and determined that she could perform a range of light work with the following limitations: she can walk or stand only four hours in an eight-hour day; she can occasionally balance and climb ladders and stairs; she cannot tolerate even moderate exposure to noise, or any hazards such as machinery and heights; she can perform simple routine tasks, but would be off-task five percent of the time; and she can tolerate occasional changes and perform goal-oriented work. Tr. 21.

         At step four, the ALJ found Rohr could not perform any of her past relevant work. Tr. 28. At step five, the ALJ determined Rohr could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, including office helper and photocopy machine operator. Tr. 29. The ALJ therefore concluded Rohr is not disabled. Id.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The reviewing court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Lewis v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 909, 911 (9th Cir. 2007). This court must weigh the evidence that supports and detracts from the ALJ's conclusion. Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998)). The reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 528 F.3d 1194, 1205 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007)); Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001). Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld if it is “‘supported ...


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