United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
TERRY J. FITTJE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Aiken United States District Judge
Terry J. Fittje brings this action pursuant to the Social
Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to
obtain judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner").
The Commissioner denied plaintiffs application for Disability
Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
18, 2006, plaintiff Terry J. Fittje applied for DIB. Tr.
171-75. She alleged disability beginning on March 31, 2005,
due to diabetes, angina, depression, and ADHD. Tr. 89,
179-80. Her application was denied initially and
upon reconsideration. Tr. 88-105, Following a hearing, an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found plaintiff
not disabled on September 23, 2011. Tr. 9-26. The Appeals
Council denied review, and plaintiff subsequently filed a
complaint in this Court. Tr. 1-6.
September 4, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District
of Oregon issued an opinion reversing the ALJ's decision
and remanding the case for further proceedings. Tr. 736-46. A
second ALJ hearing was held on February 4, 2016. Tr. 631-46.
On June 24, 2016, the ALJ issued a second decision finding
plaintiff was not disabled. Tr. 608-30. On April 25, 2017,
Richard McGinty, filed an Unopposed Motion to Withdraw as
Attorney of Record, which was granted on April 26, 2017.
E.C.F. Docket No. 13, 16. Plaintiff filed a subsequent
complaint in this court on June 26, 2017. E.C.F. Docket No.
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
it is based upon proper legal standards and the findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Berry v. Astrue, 622 F.3d 1228, 1231
(9th Cir. 2010). "Substantial evidence is more than a
mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Gutierrez v.
Comm'r Soc. Sec, 740 F.3d 519, 522 (9th Cir. 2014)
(citation and quotation marks omitted). The court must weigh
"both the evidence that supports and the evidence that
detracts from the ALJ's conclusion." Mayes v.
Massanar, 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th Cir, 2001). If the
evidence is subject to more than one interpretation but the
Commissioner's decision is rational, the Commissioner
must be affirmed, because "the court may not substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner." Edhind
v. MassanarU 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).
initial burden of proof rests upon the plaintiff to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F, 2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the plaintiff 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 determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4). At step one, the ALJ found plaintiff had not
engaged in "substantial gainful activity" since the
alleged onset date of December 1, 2007, through her date last
insured of March 31, 2010. Tr. 614; 20 C.F.R. §
4O4.l52O(a)(4)(i), (b). At step two, the ALJ found plaintiff
had the following severe impairments: "coronary artery
disease, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint
disease, diabetes mellitus II, morbid obesity, asthma, caipal
tunnel syndrome status post surgery, depression,
ADHD/learning disorder, and substance abuse." Tr, 614;
20 C.F.R. § 4O4, l52O(a)(4)(ii), (c). At step three, the
ALJ determined plaintiffs impairments, whether considered
singly or in combination, did not meet or equal "one of
the listed impairments" that the Commissioner
acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful
activity. Tr. 614-16; 20 C.F.R. § 4O4.l52O(a)(4)(iii),
found plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity
[P]erform light work as defined in 20 C[.F.R. §]
404.1567(b) except the claimant can lift and cany 10 pounds
frequently and 20 pounds occasionally. The claimant can stand
or walk 2 out of eight hours and sit for up to 8 hours in an
8-hour workday with normal breaks. The claimant can no more
than occasionally climb ramps and stairs and can never climb
scaffolds, ropes, or ladders. The claimant can no more than
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant
can have no more than occasional exposure to respiratory
irritants, such as dust, odors, fumes, and gasses. The
claimant also must avoid exposure to hazards such as
unprotected heights and dangerous machinery. The claimant can
do not (sic) work that involves using her upper extremities
for repetitive tasks. The claimant can remember, understand,
and carry out tasks and instructions consistent with
occupations at the SVP 1 or 2 levels. The claimant learns
best by demonstration versus written instruction.
Tr. 616-22; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). At step four, the
ALJ concluded plaintiff could not perform any of her past
relevant work. Tr. 622; 20 C.F.R. § 4O4.l52O(a)(4)(iv),
five, the ALJ found plaintiff could perform work existing in
the national economy; specifically, plaintiff could work as
an electronics worker, small products assembler, or mail
clerk. Tr. 622-23; 20 C.F.R. § 4O4.l52O(a)(4)(v),
(g)(1). Accordingly, the ALJ ...