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Shatto v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

October 17, 2017

JESSICA AUDRENE SHATTO, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,[1] Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          SARA L. GABIN Sara L. Gabin, P.C. Attorney for Plaintiff

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney JANICE E. HEBERT Assistant United States Attorney

          DAVID MORANDO Regional Chief Counsel MARTHA A. BODEN Special Assistant United States Attorney

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN United States Senior District Judge.

         Plaintiff Jessica Audrene Shatto seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's applications for Childhood Supplemental Security Income (Childhood SSI) 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).

         For the reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner and DISMISSES this matter.

         ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

         On August 20, 2012, an application for Childhood SSI was protectively filed on behalf of Plaintiff who was under 18 years of age at that time. Tr. 102.[2] Plaintiff alleges a disability onset date of January 1, 2000, when she was four years old. Tr. 102. The Commissioner denied the application initially on December 17, 2012, and on reconsideration on March 13, 2013. Tr. 130, 137. Plaintiff reached 18 years of age while her claim was pending review by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). An initial hearing was held June 9, 2014, at which Plaintiff appeared pro se with her mother. The hearing was rescheduled to provide Plaintiff with the opportunity to obtain counsel. Tr. 57-67. The ALJ held a second hearing on November 21, 2014. Tr. 68-100. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at this hearing.

         On March 13, 2015, the ALJ issued an opinion in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled from the date of her application and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 33-51. On March 27, 2015, Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council. Tr. 21. On June 8, 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. 1-3. See Sim v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-107 (2000).

         On July 20, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born February 20, 1995. Tr. 37, 102. At the time of the hearings before the ALJ, Plaintiff lived with her parents. Tr. 72. Plaintiff reached 18 years of age on February 20, 2013. Tr. 51. Plaintiff graduated from high school with a modified diploma. Tr. 49, 72. Although Plaintiff worked part-time at a McDonald's, she does not have an earnings history sufficient to qualify her as engaging in substantial gainful activity. Tr. 49.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to an audio-learning disorder, a slight hearing loss, and dyslexia. Tr. 102.

         STANDARDS

         Under federal law a claimant under 18 years of age is disabled if she has a “medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which . . . has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a)(3)(C)(I). The initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish her disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012). The Commissioner bears the burden of developing the record. DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 849 (9th Cir. 1991).

         The 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).

         The ALJ 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).

         DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         I. Determining Childhood Disability

         An individual under 18 years of age is eligible for Childhood SSI payments based on disability if she suffers from "a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a ...


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