United States District Court, D. Oregon
MERRILL SCHNEIDER Schneider Kerr Law Attorneys for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney
E. HEBERT Assistant United States Attorney
MORADO Regional Chief Counsel KATHRYN A. MILLER Attorneys for
OPINION AND ORDER
J. BROWN, United States District Judge
Brandon Lee DeWolfe seeks judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's
applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under
Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. This
Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final
decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the
Commissioner and DISMISSES this matter.
protectively filed his application for DIB on June 4, 2013,
and his application for SSI on June 24, 2013. Tr.
Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of June 1,
2012. Tr. 31. Plaintiff's applications were
denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on July 22, 2015. Tr. 31,
48-83. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified.
Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at the hearing.
August 7, 2015, the ALJ issued an opinion in which he found
Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to
benefits. Tr. 31-42. On September 28, 2015, Plaintiff
requested review by the Appeals Council. Tr. 22. On February
5, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
to review the ALJ's decision, and the ALJ's decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-4.
See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
March 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court
seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.
was born on November 10, 1970. Tr. 41. Plaintiff was 44 years
old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff has a tenth-grade
education. Tr. 41, 242. The ALJ found Plaintiff has past
relevant work experience as an auto mechanic and auto-shop
supervisor. Tr. 40.
alleges disability due to nerve damage to his right arm and
shoulder, arm and shoulder pain, ruptured disc in lower
spine, low-back pain, anxiety, scar tissue in the lungs, torn
cartilage in his left knee, and neck pain from a curved
spine. Tr. 241. Plaintiff also has Erb's Palsy from a
birth trauma resulting in a short dysfunctional right arm.
Tr. 34, 383.
as noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's summary
of the medical evidence. See Tr. 34-40. After
carefully reviewing the medical records, this Court adopts
the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence.
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 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)).
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 evaluating a claimant's testimony,
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).
I. The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation
One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity (SGA). 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(I),
416.920(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
impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1509, ...