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Strauss v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 17, 2017

ROBERT W. STRAUSS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,[1]Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          LISA R. J. PORTER JP Law P.C. Attorney for Plaintiff

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney, JANICE E. HEBERT Assistant United States Attorney, DAVID MORADO Regional Chief Counsel, MARTHA A. BODEN Special Assistant United States Attorney Social Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Robert W. Strauss seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         For the reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner and DISMISSES this matter.

         ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on May 23, 2012, alleging a disability onset date of August 31, 2010. Tr. 179.[2]The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on October 6, 2014. Tr. 36-65. Plaintiff was represented at the hearing. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified.

         The ALJ issued a decision on November 10, 2014, in which he found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 19-35. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.984(d), that decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on March 29, 2016, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-4. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on January 26, 1957, and was 57 years old at the time of the hearing. Tr. 135. Plaintiff completed high school and has “some college.” Tr. 53. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a branch manager, computer salesman, sales manager, chief executive officer, and recruiter. Tr. 30.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to chronic, severe pain in his left leg; memory problems; and right-foot arthritis. Tr. 183.

         Except when noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ’s summary of the medical evidence. After carefully reviewing the medical records, this Court adopts the ALJ’s summary of the medical evidence. See Tr. 22-23, 26-29.

         STANDARDS

         The initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9thCir. 2012). To meet this burden, a claimant must demonstrate his inability "to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment 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 must develop the record when there is ambiguous evidence or when the record is inadequate to allow for proper evaluation of the evidence. McLeod v. Astrue, 640 F.3d 881, 885 (9th Cir. 2011)(quoting Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459–60 (9th Cir. 2001)).

         The district 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 as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See also Brewes v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is “relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Molina, 674 F.3d. at 1110-11 (quoting Valentine v. Comm’r Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 690 (9th Cir. 2009)). "It is more than a mere scintilla [of evidence] but less than a preponderance." Id. (citing Valentine, 574 F.3d at 690).

         The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in the medical evidence, and resolving ambiguities. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009). The court must weigh all of the evidence whether it supports or detracts from the Commissioner's decision. Ryan v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008). Even when the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must uphold the Commissioner’s findings if they are supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record. Ludwig v. Astrue, 681 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2012). The court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1070 (9th Cir. 2006).

         DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         I. The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation

         The Commissioner has developed a five-step sequential inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act. Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007). See also 20 ...


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