United States District Court, D. Oregon
AMANDA R. CULVER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
KATHERINE EITENMILLER MARK A. MANNING Harder Wells Baron
& Manning, PC Attorneys for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney JANICE E. HEBERT Assistant
United States Attorney
MORADO Regional Chief Counsel MICHAEL S. HOWARD Special
Assistant United States Attorney Social Security
Administration Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
J. BROWN United States District Judge
Amanda R. Culver 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.
reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the
decision of the Commissioner and DISMISSES
filed applications for DIB on January 31, 2012, and for SSI
on January 9, 2012, and alleged a disability onset date of
March 19, 1980. Tr. 37, 312, 314. Her applications were denied
initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) held a hearing on June 10, 2014. Tr. 60-123. At the
hearing Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified.
Plaintiff was represented by an attorney.
August 20, 2014, the ALJ issued an opinion in which she found
Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to
benefits. Tr. 37-52. On November 20, 2015, that decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner when the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
Tr. 1-4. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07
was born on March 19, 1980. Tr. 312, 314. Plaintiff was 34
years old at the time of the hearing. Tr. 60, 312, 314.
Plaintiff has a high-school diploma. Tr. 346. Plaintiff has
past relevant work experience as a bus person, stock clerk,
hand-packager, and nurse assistant. Tr. 50, 107.
alleges disability due to “learning and mental
disabilities” and back pain. Tr. 345.
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. 40-50.
initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish
disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110
(9th Cir. 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)).
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).
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.
The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation
One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(I). See also
Keyser v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 648 F.3d 721, 724
(9th Cir. 2011).
Two the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant does not have any medically severe
impairments or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at
Three the claimant is disabled if the Commissioner determines
the claimant's impairments meet or equal one of the
listed impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges are so
severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). See also Keyser, 648
F.3d at 724. The criteria for the listed impairments, known
as Listings, are enumerated in 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P,
appendix 1 (Listed Impairments).
Commissioner proceeds beyond Step Three, she must assess the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC). The
claimant's RFC is an assessment of the sustained,
work-related physical and mental activities the claimant can
still do on a regular and continuing basis despite her
limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). See also
Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-8p. “A ‘regular
and continuing basis' means 8 hours a day, for 5 days a
week, or an equivalent schedule.” SSR 96-8p, at *1. In
other words, the Social Security Act does not require
complete incapacity to be disabled. Taylor v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec. Admin., 659 F.3d 1228, 1234-35 (9th Cir.
2011)(citing Fair v. Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 603 (9th
Four the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant retains the RFC to perform work she
has done in the past. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv).
See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.
Commissioner reaches Step Five, she must determine whether
the claimant is able to do any other work that exists in the
national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). See
also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724-25. Here the burden shifts
to the Commissioner to show a significant number of jobs
exist in the national economy that the claimant can perform.
Lockwood v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 616 F.3d
1068, 1071 (9th Cir. 2010). The Commissioner may satisfy this
burden through the testimony of a VE or by reference to the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines set forth in the ...