United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
A. RUSSO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Matthew Hyde brings this action for judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his application for
Title II Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
under the Social Security Act (“Act”). All
parties have consented to allow a Magistrate Judge enter
final orders and judgment in this case in accordance with
Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons
set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is reversed
and this case is remanded for the immediate payment of
November 24, 2014, plaintiff applied for DIB, alleging
disability as of October 6, 2014. Tr. 147-53. His application
was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 69, 90. On
October 16, 2015, an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) held a video hearing; plaintiff was
represented by counsel and testified, as did a vocational
expert (“VE”). Tr. 29-59. The ALJ issued a
decision finding plaintiff not disabled on November 4, 2015.
Tr. 11-24. Plaintiff timely requested review of the ALJ's
decision and, after the Appeals Council denied his request
for review, plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court. Tr.
January 13, 1961, plaintiff was fifty-three years old on the
alleged onset date of disability and fifty-four years old at
the time of the hearing. Tr. 23-24. Plaintiff attended
college and also received specialized training for medical
lab technology. Tr. 166. He worked most recently as a medical
lab technician. Tr. 166-67. Plaintiff alleges disability due
to fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, cervical spinal
stenosis, migraine headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, sensory
neuropathy, asthma, attention deficit hyperactive disorder
(“ADHD”), and bipolar disorder. Tr. 13-15, 165.
Plaintiff received a 100% service-connected disability rating
from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs
(“VA”) in 2012. Tr. 893.
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. Hammock
v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and internal
quotations omitted). The court must weigh “both the
evidence that supports and detracts from the
[Commissioner's] conclusion.” Martinez v.
Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986) (citations
omitted). Variable interpretations of the evidence are
insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is
rational. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th
initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant must
demonstrate an “inability to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected . . . to
last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Commissioner has established a five step sequential process
for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. First, the Commissioner determines whether
a claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful
activity.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled.
two, the Commissioner evaluates whether the claimant has a
“medically severe impairment or combination of
impairments.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). If the claimant does not have a
severe impairment, he is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's
impairments, either singly or in combination, meet or equal
“one of a number of listed impairments that the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity.” Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If so,
the claimant is presumptively disabled; if not, the
Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner resolves whether the claimant can
still perform “past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(f). If the claimant can work, he is
not disabled; if he cannot perform past relevant work, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner. At step five, the
Commissioner must establish the claimant can perform other
work existing in significant numbers in the national or local
economy. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(g). If the Commissioner meets this
burden, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
one, the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date. Tr. 13. At
step two, the ALJ determined plaintiff had the following
medically determinable and severe impairments:
“cervical and lumbar degenerative disc disease; carpal
tunnel syndrome; bipolar disorder with depression; and
generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)/posttraumatic stress
disorder (PTSD).” Id. At step three, the ALJ
found plaintiff's impairments, either singly or in
combination, did not meet or equal the requirements of a
listed impairment. Tr. 15-17.
such, the ALJ continued the sequential evaluation to
determine how plaintiff's medical limitations affected
his ability to work. The ALJ resolved plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) “to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b), ” except
he is further limited to no more than frequent stooping,
balancing, or crawling, and no more than occasional climbing
of ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. He is limited to no more
than frequent bilateral reaching, holding, grasping,
fingering, or feeling. [Plaintiff] is limited to simple,
repetitive, routine tasks requiring no more than occasional
interaction with coworkers and no more than brief,
superficial interaction with the general public.
four, the ALJ determined plaintiff could not perform his past
relevant work. Tr. 23. At step five, the ALJ relied on the
VE's testimony and concluded plaintiff could perform a
significant number of jobs existing in the national economy
despite his impairments. Tr. 23-24. Specifically, the ALJ
found plaintiff could perform the representative occupations
of information router, mail clerk, and small products
assembler. Tr. 24. Therefore, the ALJ determined plaintiff
was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Id.
alleges the ALJ erred by: (1) giving little weight to his VA
rating; (2) discrediting his testimony; (3) improperly
evaluating the lay witness testimony; and (4) making a step
five finding unsupported by substantial evidence. Pl.'s
Opening Br. 11-20.