United States District Court, D. Oregon
MICHELLE M. SCAFIDI, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
L. JOHNSON, JOHN E. HAAPALA, JR., Attorneys for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS, States Attorney District of Oregon JANICE E.
HEBERT Assistant United States Attorney
D. GODDARD Social Security Administration Office of the
General Counsel Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
Malcolm F. Marsh United States District Judge.
Michelle M. Scafidi seeks judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her
application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-403, and
denying her application for Supplemental Security Income
("SSI") disability benefits under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-I383f, This
Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For the reasons that follow, the
decision of the Commissioner is affirmed. \
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
protectively filed her DIB and SSI applications on March 22,
2012, alleging disability beginning August 15, 2011, due to
fibromyalgia, diabetes, heart disease, back and leg pain,
depression, arthritis, neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome,
and degenerative disc disease. Tr. Soc. Sec. Admin. R.
("Tr.") 259, ECF No. 12. Plaintiffs claims were
denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff filed a
request for a hearing before an administrative law judge
("ALJ"). The ALJ held a hearing on August 29, 2014,
at which Plaintiff appeared with her attorney and testified.
A vocational expert, Stephen R. Cardinal, also appeared at
the hearing and testified. On January 9, 2015, the ALJ issued
an unfavorable decision. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiffs request for review, and therefore, the ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner for
purposes of review.
was born in 1962, and was 49 years old on the alleged onset
of disability date, and 52 years old on the date of the
hearing. Plaintiff completed high school, and attended
cosmetology school for two years, Tr. 26, 45, 751. Plaintiff
has past relevant work as a meat wrapper and cook, and also
has worked as a cashier, day care provider, and barista. Tr.
26, 45, 48.
ALPS DISABILITY ANALYSIS
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, 416.920. Each step is potentially
dispositive. The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps
one through four. See Valentine v. Commissioner Soc. Sec.
Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009); Tackett
v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999). At step
five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the
claimant can do other work which exists in the national
economy. Hill v. Astrue, 698F.3d 1153, 1161 (9th
found that Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements
through June 30, 2017. At step one, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since her alleged onset of disability. At step two, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
obesity; diabetic peripheral neuropathy of the lower
extremities; moderate carpal tunnel syndrome, status-post
right side release; meralgia paresthetica; fibromyalgia;
lumbar degenerative disc disease; cervical degenerative disc
disease; well-controlled diabetes mellitus, status-post
thyroid ablation; sleep apnea; depressive disorder; and panic
disorder. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiffs
impairments, or combination of impairments, did not meet or
medically equal a listed impairment.
assessed Plaintiff with a residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform a range of light work with
[Plaintiff] can lift 20 pounds occasionally, and 10 pounds
frequently, [Plaintiff] can sit, stand, and walk, each up to
6 hours in an 8-hour workday for a combined total of 8 hours
of activity. [Plaintiff] requires the option to changes
positions from standing to seated three times an hour, while
still performing essential tasks. [Plaintiff] can frequently
handle; and frequently finger, and feel with the dominant,
right upper extremity. [Plaintiff] can never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds. [Plaintiff] should not be exposed to
hazards, such as unprotected heights, and large moving
equipment. [Plaintiff] can never crawl. [Plaintiff] can
frequently balance, and occasionally stoop, crouch, and
kneel. [Plaintiff] is able to understand, remember, and carry
out simple instructions in a setting with no more than
occasional public contact.
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform her
past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ found that
considering Plaintiffs age, education, work experience, and
residual functional capacity, jobs exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform,
including such representative occupations as: mail clerk,
information router, and order filler. Alternatively, the ALJ
found that if Plaintiff is limited to no more than occasional
handling bilaterally, the following representative
occupations are within Plaintiffs RFC and exist in
significant numbers: wire worker, collater operator, and key
cutter. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not
been under a disability under the Social Security Act from
August 15, 2011 through the date of the decision.
appeal to this court, Plaintiff contends the following errors
were committed: (1) the ALJ improperly evaluated her
testimony; (2) the ALJ improperly evaluated the opinions of
treating physician Arezo Fathie, M.D., examining psychologist
Alison Prescott, Ph.D., and examining physician Alec Fedorov,
M.D., and (3) the RFC fails to incorporate all of her
limitations. The Commissioner argues that the ALJ's
decision is supported by substantial evidence and is free of
legal error, Alternatively, the Commissioner contends that
even if the ALJ erred, Plaintiff has not demonstrated harmful
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
the Commissioner applied proper legal standards and the
findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Berry v. Astrue, 622 F.3d
1228, 1231 (9th Cir. 2010). "Substantial evidence is
more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it
is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept
as adequate to support a conclusion." Hill, 698
F.3d at 1159 (internal quotations omitted);
Valentine, 574 F.3d at 690. The court must weigh all
the evidence, whether it supports or detracts from the
Commissioner's decision. Garrison v. Cohin,
759F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014); Martinez v.
Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). The
Commissioner's decision must be upheld, even if the
evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation. Bat son v, Commissioner Soc.
Sec. Admin., 359 F, 3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). If
the evidence supports the Commissioner's conclusion, the
Commissioner must be affirmed; "the court may not
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner."
Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir.
2001); Garrison, 759 F.3d at 1010.
The ALJ Did Not Err in Evaluating Plaintiffs
determine whether a claimant's testimony regarding
subjective pain or symptoms is credible, an ALJ must perform
two stages of analysis, 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529. The first
stage is a threshold test in which the claimant must produce
objective medical evidence of an underlying impairment that
could reasonably be expected to produce the symptoms alleged.
Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1112 (9th Cir.
2012); Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1039
(9th Cir. 2008). At the second stage of the credibility
analysis, absent affirmative evidence of malingering, the ALJ
must provide clear and convincing reasons for discrediting
the claimant's testimony regarding the severity of the
symptoms, Carmickle v. Commissioner Soc. Sec.
Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1166 (9th Cir. 2008);
Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1036 (9th
must make findings that are sufficiently specific to permit
the reviewing court to conclude that the ALJ did not
arbitrarily discredit the claimant's testimony.
Ghanim v. Colvin, 763 F.3d 1154, 1163 (9th Cir.
2014); Brown-Hunter v. Colvin, 806 F.3d 487, 493
(9th Cir. 2015). Factors the ALJ may consider when making
such credibility determinations include the objective medical
evidence, the claimant's treatment histoiy, the
claimant's daily activities, and inconsistencies in
testimony. Ghanim, 763 F.3d at 1163;
Tommasetti, 533 F.3d at 1039.
hearing, Plaintiff testified that she takes a variety of
medication for her ailments, and that they cause her to
become fatigued. Tr. 57. Plaintiff testified that she takes
pain medication for her feet, aims, ...