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McClure v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 25, 2017

VALERIE McCLURE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MERRILL SCHNEIDER Schneider Kerr & Robichaux Attorneys for Plaintiff

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney

          JANICE E. HEBERT Assistant United States Attorney

          DAVID MORADO Regional Chief Counsel

          RYAN TA LU Special Assistant United States Attorney Social Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Valerie McClure seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Titles XVI and 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 her applications for DIB and SSI on May 4, 2009. Tr. 1119.[2] Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of January 26, 2007. Her applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on March 16, 2011. Tr. 72-106. At the hearing Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. Plaintiff, two lay witnesses, a medical expert (ME), and a vocational expert (VE) testified at the hearing.

         The ALJ issued a decision on March 24, 2011, in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, was not entitled to benefits. Tr. 19. On January 18, 2012, the Appeals Council entered an order in which it remanded the matter to the ALJ. Tr. 1119.

         An ALJ held a hearing on remand on July 23, 2012, and a supplemental hearing on December 19, 2012. Tr. 42-50, 51-71. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at both hearings. At the July 23, 2012, hearing an ME and a VE testified. At the December 19, 2012, hearing a VE testified. On January 23, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision on remand in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, was not entitled to benefits. Tr. 19-34. On April 14, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review and Plaintiff appealed the matter to the United States District Court.

         On April 15, 2015, United States Judge Garr M. King entered a Judgment of Remand in which he remanded the matter to the ALJ to (1) reevaluate Plaintiff's mental impairments; (2) further evaluate Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC); (3) "further evaluate the medical opinions, including but not limited to the opinions by Robert Davis, Ph.D., Joshua J. Boyd, Psy.D., and Bill Henning, Ph.D., and provide adequate rationale for either accepting or rejecting the opinions"; (4) reconsider Plaintiff's credibility; and (5) reevaluate Steps Four and Five. McClure v. Colvin, No. 3:14-CV-00973-KI, Docket No. 21.

         An ALJ held a hearing on remand on January 5, 2016. Tr. 1607-29. At the hearing Plaintiff was represented by an attorney and an ME and a VE testified. On January 25, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision on remand in which he found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 1119-36. The record does not reflect the Appeals Council assumed jurisdiction over this matter after the ALJ's decision. The ALJ's decision, therefore, became the final decision of the Commissioner on January 25, 2016. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.984, 416.1484.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on November 18, 1983, and was 32 years old at the time of the final hearing. Tr. 107. Plaintiff has a tenth-grade education. Tr. 55. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a customer-service representative. Tr. 1135. Plaintiff alleges disability due to sarcoidosis, depression, arthritis, stomach pain, "heart rate, " hiatal hernia, "fatty liver, " kidney cysts, and dizziness. Tr. 320.

         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. 1124-25, 1127-34.

         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 her 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. Commfr 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. Comrn.'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

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