United States District Court, D. Oregon
MERRILL SCHNEIDER Schneider Kerr Law, Attorneys for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney, JANICE E. HEBERT,
Assistant United States Attorney, DAVID MORADO Regional Chief
Counsel, THOMAS M. ELSBERRY, Special Assistant United States
Attorney Social Security Administration, Attorneys for
OPINION AND ORDER
J. BROWN United States District Judge.
Spyros Garifalakis 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 applications for DIB and SSI on May
29, 2013. Tr. 28, 219, 221. Plaintiff alleged a disability
onset date of January 1, 2009. Tr. 28, 219, 221.
Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on
reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a
hearing on August 25, 2015. Tr. 48. Plaintiff and a
vocational expert (VE) testified. Plaintiff was represented
by an attorney at the hearing.
October 6, 2015, the ALJ issued an opinion in which he found
Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to
benefits. Tr. 28-40. On April 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. 1-5. See Sims v.
Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
9, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court seeking
review of the Commissioner's decision.
was born on March 31, 1967. Tr. 219, 221. Plaintiff was 48
years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff has at least
a sixth-grade education. Tr. 54, 240. The ALJ found Plaintiff
has past relevant work experience as a forklift operator,
warehouse worker, stocking clerk, and “delivery/route
driver.” Tr. 39, 78-79.
alleges disability due to bipolar disorder, attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, fibromyalgia,
coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disorder (COPD), personality disorder, a brain aneurysm,
headaches, stroke, and temporomandibular joint disorder
(TMJ). Tr. 239.
as noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's summary
of the medical evidence. See Tr. 30-39. 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).
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, 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii).
See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.
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), 416.920(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 his
limitations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(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 Cir. 1989)).
Four the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant retains the RFC to perform work he
has done in the past. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(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),
416.920(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 regulations at 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P,
appendix 2. If the Commissioner meets this burden, the
claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
One the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since January 1, 2009, the alleged onset
date. Tr. 30.
Two the ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe impairments of
status-post cerebral vascular accident, late effects of a
cerebrovascular disease, poly-substance abuse and dependence,
and mood disorder. Tr. 30-32.
Three the ALJ concluded Plaintiff's medically
determinable impairments do not meet or medically equal one
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P,
appendix 1. Tr. 33. The ALJ found Plaintiff has the RFC to
perform medium work except that Plaintiff must avoid
concentrated exposure to fumes, dusts, orders, gases, and
pulmonary irritants and must avoid all exposure to heights
and hazards. The ALJ also found Plaintiff has the ability to
perform simple, routine work with a specific vocational
preparation of 1 or 2, and he can have “occasional,
indirect contact with coworkers” but not any contact
with the public. Tr. 32-38.
Four the ALJ concluded Plaintiff is incapable of performing
his past relevant work. Tr. 38-39.
Five the ALJ found Plaintiff could perform other jobs that
exist in the national economy, including hand-packager and
laundry laborer. Tr. 39-40. In the alternative, even if
Plaintiff was limited to light work, the ALJ found he could
still perform other jobs that exist in the national economy,
including room cleaner and agricultural sorter. Tr. 40.
Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff is not disabled. Tr. 40.
contends the ALJ erred when he (1) did not find various
conditions to be “severe” at Step Two; (2)
discredited Plaintiff's testimony; (3) discredited the
global assessment of functioning (GAF) scores assigned to
Plaintiff; (4) discredited the opinions of nonexamining
psychiatrists Joshua J. Boyd, Psy.D., and Dorothy Anderson,
Ph.D.; (5) discredited the opinion of Daniel Wardin, PLC, one
of Plaintiff's ...