United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
A. RUSSO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Clint Sterling McCollam brings this action for judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-403, 1381-83(f). All parties have consented
to a Magistrate Judge in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and
28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is reversed and this case is
remanded for further proceedings.
February 4, 2014, plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI. Tr.
193-205. Plaintiff's alleged disability began January 5,
2014, due to a “broken heel” and head trauma. Tr.
244. The Social Security Administration denied
plaintiff's claims initially and upon reconsideration.
Plaintiff then filed a request for a hearing. Tr. 73, 84. On
January 5, 2016, a hearing was held before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”). Tr. 30. On March 24, 2016, the
ALJ denied plaintiff's claim. Tr. 12-24. After the
Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review,
plaintiff filed a complaint in this court. Tr. 1-6.
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. Hammock
v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (internal citation
omitted). The court must weigh “both the evidence that
supports and detracts from the [Commissioner's]
conclusions.” Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d
771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). Variable interpretations of the
evidence are insignificant if the Commissioner's
interpretation is rational. Burch v. Barnhart, 400
F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).
initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant 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. §
416.920. At step one, the Commissioner determines whether a
claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled.
two, the Commissioner evaluates whether the claimant has a
“medically severe impairment or combination of
impairments.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(c). If the claimant does not have a
severe impairment, he is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's
impairments, either singly or in combination, meet or equal
“one of a number of listed impairments . . . the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity.” Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d). If so, the
claimant is presumptively disabled; if not, the Commissioner
proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner resolves whether the claimant can
still perform “past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(f). If the claimant can work, he is not
disabled; if he cannot perform past relevant work, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner.
five, the Commissioner must establish the claimant can
perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
national or local economy. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(g). If the Commissioner meets this
burden, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
argues the ALJ erred by: (1) improperly rejecting a medical
opinion; (2) failing to develop the record; and (3) failing
to find plaintiff met Listing 12.05(C).
Medical Opinion of Emile Stalick, Ph.D.
contends the ALJ failed to appropriately incorporate
limitations assessed by Dr. Emile Stalick in making his
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) findings.
Plaintiff argues such limitations preclude him from working.
opinions are weighted based on the nature and quality of
their relationship with the patient. See Orn v.
Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 631 (9th Cir. 2007). Factors for
evaluating a physician-patient relationship include its
length, frequency of examination, if the physician examined
or treated the patient, and if the physician's opinion is
supported by evidence and consistent with other opinions.
Id. When a physician's opinion is ...