United States District Court, D. Oregon
SANDRA L. AGUIRRE, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
A. BARON KATHERINE EITENMILLER Harder Wells Baron &
Manning, PC Attorneys for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney District of Oregon JANICE
E. HEBERT Assistant United States Attorney
GOLDOFTAS Social Security Administration Attorneys for
OPINION AND ORDER
Malcolm F. Marsh, United States District Judge.
Sandra L. Aguirre seeks judicial review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her
applications for a period of disability, disability insurance
benefits ("DIB"), and child's disability
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§401-403, and application for Supplemental
Security Income ("SSI") disability benefits under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C, §§
1381-1383f. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For the reasons that
follow, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decisions.
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
protectively filed DIB, SSI, and child's disability
benefit applications on December 12, 2012, alleging
disability beginning September 1, 2009, due to generalized
anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder
("PTSD"), chronic depression, nausea, bipolar
disorder, back and shoulder pain, and abdominal pain. Tr.
Soc. Sec. Admin. R. ("Tr.") 116, 305, ECF Nos. 9
& 10. Plaintiffs claims were denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing
before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). The ALJ
held a hearing on November 6, 2014, at which Plaintiff
appeared with her attorney and testified. A vocational
expert, Jeffrey F. Tittelfitz, also appeared at the hearing
and testified. On December 12} 2014, the ALJ
issued unfavorable decisions.The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiffs request for review, and therefore, the ALJ's
decisions became the final decisions of the Commissioner for
purposes of review.
was born in 1988, and was 21 years old on the alleged onset
of disability date, and 26 years old at the time of the
ALJ's decision. Plaintiff has a high school education and
completed cosmetology school, has past no relevant work, and
has worked part-time in a fast food restaurant and as a
cashier at a craft store. Tr. 68, 291, 306.
ALJ'S DISABILITY ANALYSIS
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, 416.920. Each step is potentially
dispositive. The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps
one through four. See Valentine v. Commissioner Soc. Sec.
Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009); Tackett
v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999). At step
five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the
claimant can do other work that exists in the national
economy. Hill v. Astrite, 698 F.3d 1153, 1161 (9th
found that Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements
through September 30, 2011. At step one, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since September 1, 2009. At step two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: carpal tunnel
syndrome, migraines, post-traumatic stress disorder
("PTSD"), and generalized anxiety disorder. At step
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiffs impairments, or
combination of impairments, did not meet or medically equal a
assessed Plaintiff with a residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform a range of light work with
[Plaintiff] is further limited to tasks involving no more
than frequent climbing of ramps or stairs, and no more than
occasional climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She is
limited to no more than occasional exposure to workplace
hazards, such as unprotected heights and moving mechanical
parts. She can perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks
consistent with unskilled work, as defined by the Dictionary
of Occupational Titles (DOT). She is limited to goal-oriented
work, such as office cleaning work, but she is unable to
perform production rate pace work, such as assembly line
work. She can tolerate occasional interaction with
supervisors, but only superficial interaction with co-workers
in the public (superficial defined as casual or perfunctory).
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has no past relevant work.
At step five, the ALJ found that considering Plaintiffs age,
education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that she
can perform, such as small products assembler, electronics
worker, and garment sorter. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff has not been under a disability under the
Social Security Act from September 1, 2009 through the date
of the decision.
appeal to this Court, Plaintiff contends the following errors
were committed: (1) the ALJ improperly evaluated her
testimony; and (2) the ALJ failed to account for all of her
social limitations in the hypothetical to the Vocational
Expert ("VE") and RFC determination, resulting in
an error at step five. The Commissioner argues that the
ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence and
is free of legal error. Alternatively, the Commissioner
contends that even if the ALJ erred, Plaintiff has not
demonstrated harmful error.