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Mannion v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

November 21, 2017


          TIM WILBORN Attorney for Plaintiff.

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney District of Oregon JANICE E. HEBERT Assistant United States Attorney ERINF. HIGHLAND Special Assistant United States Attorney Attorneys for Defendant.



         Plaintiff Daniel Mannion seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-403. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons that follow, the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.


         Plaintiff protectively filed his DIB application on June 26, 2013, alleging disability beginning September 30, 2006, due to hidradenitis suppurativa ("HS"), pilonidal disease, and hernia. Plaintiff subsequently amended his alleged onset date to October 1, 2009. Tr. Soc. Sec. Admin. R. ("Tr.") 29-30, ECF No. 9. 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 June 10, 2015, at which Plaintiff appeared with his attorney and testified. A vocational expert, Lynn A. Jones, also appeared at the hearing and testified. On July 17, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review, and therefore, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of review.[1]

         Plaintiff was born in 1964, and was 45 years old on the amended alleged onset of disability date and 50 years old on the date of the hearing. Plaintiff has completed four years of college, and has worked in the past as an internet systems operator and a small business owner. Tr. 48, 209.


         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. § 404, 1520. Each step is potentially dispositive. The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012); Valentine v. Commissioner Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009). At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant can do other work which exists in the national economy. Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012).

         Plaintiff meets insured status requirements for a DIB application through December 31, 2018, At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his amended alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: hidradenitis suppurativa[2] and a history of hernia. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiffs impairments do not meet or medically equal a listed impairment.

         The ALJ assessed Plaintiff with a residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a range of light work but with the following limitations:

he is further limited to tasks involving no more than frequent balancing, and no more than occasional kneeling, crawling, crouching, stooping, or climbing.

Tr. 15. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is able to perform his past relevant work as an internet systems operator and small business owner. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a disability under the Social Security Act at any time from October 1, 2009 through the date of the decision.


         On appeal to this Court, Plaintiff contends the following errors were committed: (1) the ALJ erred at step three in failing to find his HS meets or equals Listing 8.06; (2) the ALJ improperly evaluated his testimony; and (3) the ALJ failed to include all credible evidence in the hypothetical question to the vocational expert. The Commissioner argues that even if the ALJ erred, Plaintiff has not demonstrated harmful error.


         The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if the Commissioner applied the proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Brown-Hunter v. Colvin, 806 F.3d 487, 492 (9th Cir. 2015), '"Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla but, less than a preponderance. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d 664, 674 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Desrosiers v. Sec'y Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir, 1988)). The court must weigh all the evidence, whether it supports or detracts from the Commissioner's decision. Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). The Commissioner's decision must be upheld, even if the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation. Batson v. Commissioner Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir, 2004). If the evidence supports the Commissioner's conclusion, the Commissioner must be affirmed; "the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner." Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001); Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1010 (9th Cir. 2014).


         I. The ALJ Did Not Err at Step Three

         A. Step ...

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