United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
V.ACOSTA UNHED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Schuhmacher (“plaintiff”) seeks judicial review
of a final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her applications for
Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”)
and Titlen Disabilityhisui-ance Benefits (“DIB”)
under the Social Secuiity Act. Based on a careful review of
the record, the Commissioner's decision should be
reversed and this case should be remanded for further
filed her most recent applications for DIB and SSI on April
3, 2012, alleging disability as of April 18,
2012. (Tr. 246-53, 267.) Her application was
denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 162-69,
178-82. An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held
hearings on April 22, 2014, and July 2, 2014; plaintiff was
represented by counsel and testified, as did a vocational
expert. (Tr. 37-89.) On December 23, 2014, the ALJ issued a
decision finding plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 14-30.)
Plaintifftimely requested review of the ALJ's decision
and, after the Appeals Council denied her request for review,
filed a complaint in this Court. (Tr. 1-7.)
April 18, 1957, plaintiff was 55 years old on the amended
alleged onset date of disability and 57 years old at the time
of both hearings. (Tr. 246, 267.) She graduated from high
school and completed some college. (Tr. 267.) Plaintiff
worked previously as a sales clerk, bartender, caregiver,
pricer/sorter, and delivery driver. (Tr. 87-88, 285, 290.)
She alleges disability due to emphysema, fibromyalgia,
depression, anxiety, migraines, and high blood pressure. (Tr.
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.
Hammockv. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989).
Substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla. It
means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Per ales, 402 U.S, 3 89, 401 (1971)
(citation and internal quotations omitted). The court must
weigh "both the evidence that supports and detracts from
the [Commissioner's] conclusions." Martinezv.
Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 19 8 6).
"Where the evidence as a whole can support either a
grant or a denial, [the court] may notsubstitute [its]
judgment for the ALJ's.” Massachiv. As
true, 486F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation
initial burden ofproofrests upon the claimant to establish
disability. Howardv, Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484,
l486(9thCir, 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant 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).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process
for detenriining whether a person is disabled. Bowenv.
Yucker(, 482 U.S. 137, 140(1987). First, the
Commissioner evaluates whether a claimant is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity”; if so, the
claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
two, the Commissioner resolves whether the claimant has a
“medically severe impairment or combination of
impairments.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c),
416.920(c). If not, the claimant is not disabled.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant meets
or equals "one of a number of listed impairments that, .
. are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful
activity." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d),
416.920(d). If so, the claimant is presumed disabled; if not,
the Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482
U, S. at 141, At step four, the Commissioner considers
whether the claimant can still perform "past relevant
work." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f).
If the claimant can work, she is not disabled; if she cannot
perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can
perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
national or local economy. 2OC.F.R. §§404.1520(g),
416.920(g). If the Commissioner meets this burden, the
claimant is not disabled.
one of the five-step process outlined above, the AL J found
plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since the amended alleged onset date. (Tr. 16.) At step two,
the ALJ determined plaintiff had the following medically
determinable and severe impairments: "mild asthma,
exacerbated by smoking tobacco and marijuana; methamphetamine
abuse during the period under adjudication; mild to moderate
cervical degenerative disease; and obesity."
(Id.) At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff s
impairments, either singly or in combination, did not meet or
equal the requirements of a listed impairment. (Tr. 20.)
the ALJ continued the sequential evaluation process to
determine how plaintiff s medical limitations affected her
ability to work. The ALJ resolved that plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a
limited range of light work:
She can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently in an eight-hour workday. She can sit for a
total of six hours, stand for a total of six hours, and walk
for a total of six hours in an eight-hour workday, for a
combined total of eight hour's of activity. She cannot be
exposed to hazards such as unprotected heights and large
moving equipment. She should avoid concentrated exposure to
inhaled irritants such as odors, dust, fumes, and gases. She
can understand and carry out moderately complex tasks, but
not highly complex tasks.
four, the AL J found plaintiff capable of performing her past
relevant work as a bartender and sales clerk. (Tr. 29.)
Therefore, the ALJ concluded plaintiff was not disabled.
argues the ALJ erred by: (1) omitting her migraines, anxiety,
and depression as severe impairments at step two and, as a
result, wrongfully rej ecting her subj ective symptom
testimony related thereto; (2) finding that her combined
impairments did not render her disabled at step three; (3)
rej ecting the medical opinions of ...