United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
YIM YOU, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Cathleen Teresa Hughley (“Hughley”), seeks
judicial review of the final decision by the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner”) finding her
disabled only after she reached age 55 and, therefore,
denying portions of her application for Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, 42 USC
§§ 1381-83f. This court has jurisdiction under 42
USC § 405(g) and § 1383(c). Because the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence and free of legal error, it should be affirmed.
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) on August 31, 2011, alleging a disability
beginning April 2, 2006, due to fibromyalgia and bipolar
disorder. Tr. 74, 214-15. On September 6, 2011, Hughley also
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). Tr. 216-24. Those claims were denied in
March 2012, and Hughley, who was not represented by counsel
at the time, did not appeal. Tr. 74-105, 143-44. On November
29, 2012, Hughley protectively filed an application for SSI,
alleging disability beginning March 30, 2006, due to bipolar
disorder, fibromyalgia, posttraumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), diverticulitis, chronic pain, and
fatigue. Tr. 107-08, 225-32. After the Commissioner denied
Hughley's new SSI application initially and upon
reconsideration (Tr. 106-34, 153-57, 161-63), Hughley
requested and was granted a hearing before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) on February 6, 2015. Tr. 35-73.
March 26, 2015, ALJ S. Andrew Grace issued a decision finding
Hughley to be disabled as of March 26, 2013, but not before.
Tr. 17-28. Hughley requested, and the Appeals Council denied,
review of the ALJ's decision on August 31, 2016. Tr. 1-3.
The ALJ's decision is a final decision subject to review
by this court. 20 CFR §§ 404.981, 416.1481,
September 1958, Hughley was 47 years old on the alleged onset
date. She has a high school education and past work
experience as a general office clerk. Tr. 26. Hughley
reported that she has always had problems with balance, and
in 2001, began using a cane after she slipped and fell on
ice, causing her pain in both hips and exacerbating her
balance problems. Tr. 886. In September of 2001, Hughley
reported increased difficulty balancing and indicated that
she had recently fallen several times. Tr. 917-18. In
December of 2010, Hughley was again struggling with her
balance and reported falling over several times. Tr. 439. In
March 2011, Hughley reported “some problems with
balance some days.” Tr. 607.
function report from September 2011, Hughley indicated that
the most she could lift was five pounds. Tr. 271. In November
2012, Hughley reported that she struggles to lift objects
that weigh 10 pounds or more and has difficulty shopping
because she can only carry one bag. Tr. 489, 578. Three
months later, based on his examination of Hughley, Dr. Ryan
Vancura determined that Hughley could lift 50 pounds
occasionally and 25 pounds frequently. Tr. 483. In 2015, Dr.
Annette Guido, Hughley's treating physician, filled out a
report that indicated Hughley was incapable of grasping or
lifting anything. Tr. 963.
also suffers from a variety of mental health issues including
depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations, bipolar disorder,
and PTSD; however she does not challenge the ALJ's
findings with regard to those impairments.
reviewing 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. 42 USC
§ 405(g); Lewis v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 909, 911
(9th Cir. 2007). This court must weigh the evidence that
supports and detracts from the ALJ's conclusion.
Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th
Cir. 2007) (citing Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715,
720 (9th Cir. 1998)). The reviewing court may not substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner when the evidence
can reasonably support either affirming or reversing the
decision. Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th
Cir. 2007). Instead, where the evidence is susceptible to
more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's
decision must be upheld if it is “supported by
inferences reasonably drawn from the record.”
Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir.
2008) (citation omitted); see also Lingenfelter, 504
F.3d at 1035; Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679
(9th Cir. 2005) (“Where evidence is susceptible to more
than one rational interpretation, it is the ALJ's
conclusion that must be upheld.”).
ANALYSIS AND ALJ FINDINGS
is the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than 12 months.” 42 USC §
423(d)(1)(A). The ALJ engages in a five-step sequential
inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled within
the meaning of the Act. This sequential analysis is set forth
in the Social Security regulations, 20 CFR § 416.920, in
Ninth Circuit case law, Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d
1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999) (applying 20 CFR §
404.1520), and in the ALJ's decision in this case, Tr.
one, the ALJ found that Hughley had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity after ...