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Rose v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

September 7, 2017

HEIDI ROSE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael J. McShane, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Heidi Rose brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). Because the Commissioner's decision is based on proper legal standards and supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed an application for Title II disability insurance benefits on June 12 2014, and also protectively filed a Title XVI application for supplemental security income on December 5, 2014. Both applications allege disability beginning February 10, 2014. Tr. 10. The claim was denied initially on November 5, 2014, and upon reconsideration on February 10, 2015. Id. Upon claimant's request, a hearing was held on August 3, 2015, and on August 11, 2015 the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiff. Tr. 23. The Appeals Council denied the request for review on making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1. This appeal followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The reviewing court shall affirm the Commissioner's decision if the decision is based on proper legal standards and the legal findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r for Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). “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 v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Sandgathe v. Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997)). To determine whether substantial evidence exists, this Court reviews the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and that which detracts from the ALJ's conclusion. Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986).

         The Commissioner's findings are upheld if supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record; if evidence exists to support more than one rational interpretation, the court must defer to the Commissioner's decision. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193; Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033, 1034-35 (9th Cir. 2000) (when evidence can rationally be interpreted in more than one way, the court must uphold the Commissioner's decision). A reviewing court, however, “cannot affirm the Commissioner's decision on a ground that the Administration did not invoke in making its decision.” Stout v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 454 F.3d 1050, 1054 (9th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). A court may not reverse an ALJ's decision on account of an error that is harmless. Id. at 1055-56. “[T]he burden of showing that an error is harmful normally falls upon the party attacking the agency's determination.” Shinseki v. Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 409 (2009).

         The ALJ need not discuss all evidence presented, but must explain why significant probative evidence has been rejected. Stark v. Shalala, 886 F.Supp. 733, 735 (D. Or. 1995). See also Howard ex rel. Wolff v. Barnhart, 341 F.3d 1006, 1012 (9th Cir. 2003) (in interpreting the evidence and developing the record, the ALJ need not discuss every piece of evidence).

         DISCUSSION

         The Social Security Administration uses a five step sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520; 416.920. The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to meet the first four steps. If claimant satisfies his or her burden with respect to the first four steps, the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At step five, the Commissioner's burden is to demonstrate the claimant is capable of making an adjustment to other work after considering the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education, and work experience. Id.

         Here, the ALJ found at step one of the sequential analysis that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA) since the alleged onset date of disability of February 10, 2014. Tr. 12. At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff suffered from two severe impairments: bowel incontinence and depression. Id. At step three, the ALJ found that none of Plaintiff's impairments, alone or in combination, met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.

         At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform work at all exertional levels but with the following non exertional limitations:

“the individual would be limited to occasionally climbing ramps and stairs; occasionally climbing ladders and scaffolds; balancing would be limited to the frequent level; stopping, crouching, and crawling would be limited to the occasional level; the individual would be limited to simple tasks, and making simple work related decisions, and the individual would be limited to tolerating few changes in a routine work environment, equating to repetitive tasks day to day, whether working by herself or with coworkers would require the same sort of environment without variability as to working with different coworkers day-today; the ...

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