United States District Court, D. Oregon
J. GANNON, LISA R. J. PORTER JP Law PC Attorneys for
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney District of Oregon JANICE
E. HEBERT Assistant United States Attorney JORDAN D. GODDARD
Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
Malcolm F. Marsh United States District Judge
Plaintiff Sheila Hanlon 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
application for Supplemental Security Income
("SSI") disability benefits under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. This
Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For the reasons that follow, the Court
affirms the Commissioner's decision.
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
protectively filed DIB and SSI applications on February 2 8,
2013, alleging disability beginning December 30, 2008, due to
acute rheumatoid arthritis, depression, abdominal pain, chest
pain, and migraines. Tr. Soc. Sec. Admin. R.
("Tr.") at 82, ECF No. 13. 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 January 13,
2015, at which Plaintiff appeared with her attorney and
testified. A vocational expert, Frank Lucas, also appeared at
the hearing and testified. On February 24, 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
was born in 1961, and was 47 years old on the alleged onset
of disability date, and 53 years old at the time of the
ALJ's decision. Plaintiff has a high school education,
attended a college of cosmetology, and has past relevant work
as a rental agent, waitress, and travel consultant. Tr. 57,
ALJ'S DISABILITY ANALYSIS
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process
for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowenv.
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 that exists in the national
economy. Hill v. Astme, 698 F.3d 1153, 1161 (9th
found that Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements
through September 30, 2015. At step one, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff has engaged in substantial gainful activity from
January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009. At step two, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and
cervical spine, psoriatic arthritis, and fibromyalgia. At
step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff s impairments, or
combination of impairments, did not meet or medically equal a
assessed Plaintiff with a residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform sedentary work with additional
limitations: Plaintiff is limited to occasional climbing of
ramps and stairs, but no climbing of ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds. Plaintiff has no limitations in balancing and
stooping, but she can never kneel, crouch, or crawl. Finally,
Plaintiff is limited to no exposure to extreme cold or
hazards such as work at unprotected heights or around moving
mechanical parts. Tr. 22.
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of performing
her past relevant work as a travel consultant. Accordingly,
the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a
disability under the Social Security Act from December 30,
2008 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
her treating rheumatologist, W. Clay McCord, M.D; and (3) the
ALJ improperly evaluated the lay testimony of her friend,
Mary Johnson. 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, SI
A F.3d at 690. The court must weigh all the evidence,
whether it supports or detracts from the Commissioner's
decision. Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.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. Batson 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."
Edhind v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir.
2001); Garroow, 759 F.3d at 1010.
The ALJ Did Not Err in Discounting ...