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Hottman v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

October 17, 2017

RYAN E.HOTTMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Ann Aiken United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Ryan E. Hottman brings this action pursuant to the Social Security 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"). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

         BACKGROUND

         On July 27, 2012, plaintiff applied for SSI. He alleged disability beginning October 21, 1980, due to cerebral palsy, double vision, and brain damage. Plaintiffs application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On January 30, 2015, plaintiff appeared at a hearing before an ALJ. At the hearing, plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. The ALJ found plaintiff not disabled in a written decision issued February 26, 2015. After the Appeals Council denied review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based upon 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." Gutierrez v. Comm'r Soc. Sec, 740 F.3d 519, 522 (9th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court must weigh "both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the ALJ's conclusion." Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th Cir. 2001). If the evidence is subject to more than one interpretation but the Commissioner's decision is rational, the Commissioner 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).

         COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

         The initial burden of proof rests upon the plaintiff to establish disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486 (9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the 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).

         The 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(a)(4). At step one, the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in "substantial gainful activity" since the application date. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(i), (b). At step two, the ALJ found plaintiff had the following severe impairments: "cerebral palsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cognitive disorder, math disorder, and anxiety disorder[.]" Tr. 22; see 20 C.F.R. §§ §§ 416.920(a)(4)(h), (c). At step three, the ALJ determined plaintiffs impairments, whether considered singly or in combination, did not meet or equal one of the "listed impairments" that the Commissioner acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ §§ 416.920(a)(4)(iii), (d).

         The ALJ then assessed plaintiffs residual functional capacity ("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e). In addition to other limitations not relevant to this appeal, the ALJ found plaintiff

is limited to performing simple, routine, repetitive tasks consistent with unskilled work; he is limited to low stress work which is defined as work requiring few decisions and few changes; he can have occasional superficial contact with the public and co-workers; and he can perform at a standards or ordinary pace but not at a strict productions rate pace.

Tr. 25. At step four, the ALJ concluded plaintiff had no past relevant work. 20 C.F.R, §§ 416.920(a)(4)(iv), (f). At step five, the ALJ found plaintiff could perform work existing in the national economy; specifically, plaintiff could work as a small products assembler, a silver wrapper, or a price marker. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v), (g)(1). Accordingly, the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled and denied his application for benefits.

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff contends the ALJ committed harmful error by not accounting for certain accommodations recommended by examining psychologist Dr. LeBray and the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services ("VRS") ...


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