United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Aiken United States District Judge
Jo Lynn Walker, brings this action pursuant to the Social
Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to
obtain judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner").
The Commissioner denied plaintiffs application for
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title
XVI of the Act. For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed in part, reversed in
part, and remanded for further proceedings.
27, 2011, plaintiff, Jo Lynn Walker, filed for an application
for SSI, alleging disability as of March 4, 1993 based on a
number of conditions including fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel
syndrome, arthritis, speech problems, bone spurs, past
seizures, tendonitis, bursitis, Reynaud's of the right
hand, anxiety and back problems. Tr. 234-40, 256, 264, Her
application I was denied initially and again upon
reconsideration. Tr. 116-23, 127-28, 133-35. Plaintiff then I
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"). A hearing was held on February 26, 2015.
Tr. 31-67. The ALJ ordered a consultative physical
examination and held a supplemental hearing on August 28,
2015. Tr, 53, 68-92. On September 3, 2015, the ALJ issued a
decision denying Plaintiff s claim for benefits. Tr. 13-30.
The Appeals Council denied review on March 25, 2016. Tr. 1-7,
9-12. Accordingly, the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the agency from which plaintiff now seeks review.
Plaintiff subsequently filed the present complaint in this
Court, (doc. 1)
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision so
long as 1) it is based on proper legal standards and 2) its
findings are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Berry v. Astrue, 622 F.3d 1228, 1231
(9th Cir. 2010). The district court reviews the record as a
whole, and must weigh both evidence that supports and
evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's
conclusion. Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th
Cir. 1985). If evidence presents the possibility for multiple
interpretations and the Commissioner's decision is
rational, the decision must be affirmed because "the
court may not substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner." Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d
1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).
initial burden of proof rests upon plaintiff to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, plaintiff must
demonstrate an "inability to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected ... to
last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months[.]" 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
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(a)(4). At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff did
not engage in substantial gainful activity since June 27,
2011, her application date. Tr. 18; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), (b). At step two, the ALJ found that
plaintiff had the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia;
lumbar spine degenerative disk disease; lumbosacral neuritis;
facet anthropathy; asthma; adjustment disorder; depressive
disorder, NOS; anxiety disorder, NOS; PTSD; bipolar disorder;
pain disorder; and borderline personality disorder.
Id.; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(h), (c).
At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiffs impairments,
whether considered singly or combination, did not meet or
equal one of the listed impairments that the Commissioner
acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful
activity. Tr. 19; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii),
found plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR
§ 404.1567(b), with the following limitations: no more
than standing and/or walking four hours out of an eight-hour
work day, but no more than one hour at a time; no more than
occasionally climbing ramps or stairs, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, or crawling; never climbing ladders, ropes or
scaffolds; no more than frequent bilateral reaching,
handling, fingering, feeling, pushing, pulling, or bilateral
foot control operation; must avoid concentrated exposure to
fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poorly ventilated areas;
simple instructions; no more than occasional interaction with
coworkers and supervisors. Tr. 20; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(e). . Tr. 21. At step four, the ALJ found that
plaintiff has no past relevant, opining that while the record
shows some earnings in the past 15 years, the claimant did
not perform such work at substantial gainful activity levels.
Tr. 24; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f).
five, the ALJ found plaintiff could perform several jobs
existing in significant numbers in the national economy. Tr.
24-25; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), (g). The ALJ
based this decision on plaintiffs age, education, work
experience, and RFC, and determined, pursuant to the vocation
expert testimony, that plaintiff could have performed the
requirements of occupations such as the following: addresser,
polisher, and stuffer. Tr. 26. Accordingly, the ALJ found
plaintiff not disabled and denied her application for
alleges that the ALJ erred by (1) improperly rejecting
medical opinion evidence, namely the opinions of and (2)
failing to provide clear and convincing reasons supported by
substantial evidence to discredit Plaintiffs symptom
testimony. I address each argument in turn.
Medical Opinion Evidence
Plaintiff argues that that the ALJ erred in discounting the
treating and examining source opinions from Julie Hargraves,
LCSW; Hugh Henderson, MD; Anthony Glassman, MD.
Dr. Glassman's ...