United States District Court, D. Oregon
J. Wall, Law Offices of George J. Wall, Of Attorneys for
J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Janice E.
Hébert, Assistant United States Attorney, United
States Attorney's Office, District of Oregon, Lars J.
Nelson, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office of
the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Of
Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael H. Simon, District Judge.
Gail Marie Bumala brings this action pursuant to section
205(g) of the Social Security Act (the “Act”),
as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain
judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Act. For the
following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's
filed an application for DIB on November 20, 2012. The
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
After a request for a hearing, Bumala, represented by
counsel, appeared and testified before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) on August 19, 2014. On September
23, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding Bumala not
disabled within the meaning of the Act and therefore not
entitled to benefits. This decision became the final decision
of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council declined to
review the decision on February 5, 2016.
last date insured for benefits is December 31, 2004, so she
must prove she was disabled by that date. AR 26. Bumala was
subsequently awarded supplemental security income
(“SSI”) benefits on a new application, and the
Commissioner found her disabled beginning in April 2013.
Pl.'s Opening Br., Attach. 1, ECF 14-1 (SSI award
letter). The present action, therefore, concerns the period
between December 31, 2004, and March 31, 2013.
provides for payment of disability insurance benefits to
people who have contributed to the Social Security program
and who suffer from a physical or mental disability. 42
U.S.C. § 423(a)(1).
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 cause death or to last for a continuous period of
at least twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A)
& 1382c(a)(3)(A). An individual will be determined to be
disabled only if her physical or mental impairments are of
such severity that she is not only unable to do her previous
work but cannot, considering her age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(2)(A) & 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining if a person is eligible
for DIB due to disability. The evaluation is carried out by
the ALJ. The claimant has the burden of proof on the first
four steps. Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th
Cir. 2007); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 & 416.920.
First, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b) & 416.920(b). If the claimant is
engaged in such activity, disability benefits are denied.
Otherwise, the ALJ proceeds to step two and determines
whether the claimant has a medically severe impairment or
combination of impairments. A severe impairment is one
“which significantly limits [the claimant's]
physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities[.]” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) &
416.920(c). If the claimant does not have a severe impairment
or combination of impairments, disability benefits are
impairment is severe, the ALJ proceeds to the third step to
determine if the impairment is equivalent to one of a number
of listed impairments at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1, that the Commissioner acknowledges are so severe
as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d) & 416.920(d). If the impairment
meets or equals one of those listed, the claimant is
conclusively presumed disabled. If not, the analysis
point, the ALJ must evaluate medical and other relevant
evidence to assess and determine the claimant's
“residual functional capacity”
(“RFC”). This is an assessment of work-related
activities that the claimant may still perform on a regular
and continuing basis, despite any limitations imposed by her
impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e),
404.1545(b)-(c), 416.920(e), 416.945(b)-(c). The ALJ proceeds
to the fourth step to determine whether the impairment
prevents the claimant from performing work which she
performed in the past with this RFC assessment. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv) & 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If
the claimant is able to perform work she performed in the
past, a finding of “not disabled” is made and
disability benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(f) & 416.920(f).
claimant is unable to perform work performed in the past, the
ALJ proceeds to the fifth and final step to determine if the
claimant can perform other work in the national economy in
light of her age, education, and work experience. The burden
shifts to the Commissioner to show what gainful work
activities are within the claimant's capabilities.
Parra, 481 F.3d at 746. The claimant is entitled to
disability benefits only if she is not able to perform other
work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g) & 416.920(g).
court must affirm a denial of benefits if the denial is
supported by substantial evidence and is based on correct
legal standards. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012). Substantial
evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion”
and is more than a “mere scintilla” of the
evidence but less than a preponderance. Id. at
1110-11 (quotation omitted). The court must uphold the
ALJ's findings if they “are supported by inferences
reasonably drawn from the record[, ]”even if the
evidence is susceptible to multiple rational interpretations.
Id. at 1110. The court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the Commissioner. Batson v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1196 (9th
Cir. 2004). “[A] reviewing court must consider the
entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by
isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence.”
Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007)
one, the ALJ found that Bumala did not engage in substantial
gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset
date of disability of February 12, 1999, through her last
insured date of December 31, 2004. AR 26. At step two, the
ALJ identified the following impairments as severe: ankle
fracture, degenerative disc disease, history of myocardial
infarction, obesity, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), and personality disorder.
Id. At step three, the ALJ found that these
impairments, either singly or in ...