United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION & ORDER
AIKEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Jennifer Dawn Bandrup seeks judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner") denying disability and disability
insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social
Security Act and supplemental security income pursuant to
Title XVI. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of
the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
filed a Title II application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits and a Title XVI application for
supplemental security income on July 2, 2012. Tr. 15.
Plaintiff alleged disability beginning December 31, 2009.
Id. Her application was denied initially and upon
review. Id. Plaintiff appeared before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") at a hearing held
November 6, 2014. Id. On January 7, 2015, the ALJ
issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 28. The
Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision
the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr, 3. This pro
se appeal followed.
claimant is disabled if he or she is unable to "engage
in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which.... has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months[.]" 42
U.S.C.§ 423(d)(1)(A). "Social Security Regulations
set out a five-step sequential process for determining
whether an applicant is disabled within the meaning of the
Social Security Act." Keyser v. Comm V, 648
F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011).
The five-steps are: (1) Is the claimant presently working in
a substantially gainful activity? (2) Is the claimant's
impairment severe? (3) Does the impairment meet or equal one
of a list of specific impairments described in the
regulations? (4) Is the claimant able to perform any work
that he or she has done in the past? and (5) Are there
significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that the
claimant can perform?
Id. at 724-25; see also Bustamcmte v.
Massanavi, 262 F.3d 949, 954 (9th Cir. 2001).
claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four.
Bustamcmte, 262 F.3d at 953, The Commissioner bears
the burden of proof at step five. Id. at 953-54. At
step five, the Commissioner must show that the claimant can
perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy, "taking into consideration the
claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education,
and work experience." Tackett v. Apfel, 180
F.3d 1094, 1100 (9th Cir. 1999); see also 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404, 1566; 416.966 (describing "work which
exists in the national economy"). If the Commissioner
fails to meet this burden, the claimant is disabled. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v); 416.920(a)(4)(v). If,
however, the Commissioner proves that the claimant is able to
perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
national economy, the claimant is not disabled.
Bustainante, 262 F.3d at 953-54.
performed the sequential analysis. At step one, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date of December 31, 2009,
Tr. 17. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: obesity; affective disorder (bipolar);
anxiety disorder; autoimmune disorder; mild degenerative
joint disease bilaterally in the knees; hepatitis C; and
hypertension. Id. The ALJ determined that Plaintiffs
severe impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment.
determined that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform medium work
with the following additional restrictions: she can perform
frequent but not constant climbing of ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds, kneeling, and crouching; she must avoid
concentrated exposure to non-weather related extremes of cold
and heat; and she can perform work that requires no more than
frequent interaction with coworkers. Tr. 19-20.
found that Plaintiff was able to perform her past relevant
work as a computer support technician, as a graphics
designer, or as a receptionist. Tr. 27. Accordingly, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. Tr. 27-28,
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
the decision is based on proper legal standards and the legal
findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record.
42 U.S.C, § 405(g); Batson v. Comm V, 359 F.3d
1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). Substantial evidence "means
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). In reviewing the Commissioner's
alleged errors, this court must weigh "both the evidence
that supports and detracts from the [Commissioner's]
conclusion." Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 771,
772 (9th Cir. 1986). Variable interpretations of the evidence
are insignificant if the Commissioner's inteipretation is
rational. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th
the evidence before the ALJ is subject to more than one
rational interpretation, we must defer to the ALJ's
conclusion. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1198 (citing
Andrews v. Shalala,53 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir.
1995)). A reviewing court, however, cannot affirm the
Commissioner's decision on a ground that the agency did
not invoke in making its decision. Stout v.
Comm'r,454 F.3d 1050, 1054 (9th Cir. 2006).
Finally, a court may not reverse an ALJ's decision on
account of an error that is harmless. Id. at
1055-56. "[T]he burden of showing that an ...