United States District Court, D. Oregon
L. GABIN Attorney for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney
GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney
Michael W. Pile Acting Regional Chief Counsel
K. LANGKAMER Special Assistant United States Attorneys for
OPINION AND ORDER
J. BROWN United States Senior District Judge
Paul E. Cree seeks judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in
which she denied Plaintiff's application for Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
reasons that follow, the Court REVERSES the
decision of the Commissioner and REMANDS
this matter pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) for further administrative proceedings consistent with
this Opinion and Order.
filed an application for SSI on November 24, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of April 15, 2010. Tr.
142.The application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a
hearing on March 11, 2016. Tr. 49-114. Plaintiff was
represented by an attorney at the hearing. Plaintiff and a
vocational expert (VE) testified.
issued a decision on June 2, 2016, in which he found
Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to
benefits. Tr. 19-40. Pursuant to 20 C.F, R. § 416.984(d)
that decision became the final decision of the Commissioner
on August 3, 2016, when the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-3. See Sims v.
Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
was born on December 20, 1969, and was 46 years old at the
time of the hearing. Tr. 116. Plaintiff graduated from high
school and subsequently completed a real-estate course. Tr.
329. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a
real-estate broker and leasing agent. Tr. 38.
alleges disability due to attention deficit disorder
(ADD)/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD}, personality disorder, and degenerative disc disease.
PL's Opening Br. at 2. See also Tr. 21-22, 116,
as noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's summary
of the medical evidence. After carefully reviewing the
medical records, this Court adopts the ALJ's summary of
the medical evidence. See Tr. 21-37.
initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish
disability. Molina v. Rstrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110
(9thCir. 2012). To meet this burden, a claimant
must demonstrate his inability "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).
The ALJ must develop the record when there is ambiguous
evidence or when the record is inadequate to allow for proper
evaluation of the evidence. McLeod v. Astrue, 64 0
F.3d 881, 885 (9th Cir. 2011} (quoting Mayes
v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459-60 (9th Cir.
district 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 as a whole.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See also Brewes v. Coram'r
of Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th
Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is "relevant evidence
that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Molina, 674 F.3d. at 1110-11
(quoting Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin,,
574 F.3d 685, 690 (9th Cir. 2009)). "It is
more than a mere scintilla [of evidence] but less than a
preponderance." Id. (citing Valentine,
574 F.3d at 690).
is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in the medical evidence, and resolving ambiguities.
Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th
Cir. 2009). The court must weigh all of the evidence whether
it supports or detracts from the Commissioner's decision.
Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 528 F.3d 1194, 1198
(9th Cir. 2008). Even when the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the
court must uphold the Commissioner's findings if they are
supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record.
Ludwig v. Astrue, 681 F.3d 1047, 1051
(9th Cir. 2012). The court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the Commissioner. Widmark v.
Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1070 (9th Cir.
The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation
Commissioner has developed a five-step sequential inquiry to
determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning
of the Act. Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746
(9th Cir. 2007). See also 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920. Each step is potentially dispositive.
One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(I). See also
Keyser v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. , 648 F.3d 721, 724
(9th Cir. 2011}.
Two the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant does not have any medically severe
impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.909, 416.920(a) (4) (ii) . See also
Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.
Three the claimant is disabled if the Commissioner determines
the claimant's impairments meet or equal one of the
listed impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges are so
severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a) (4) (iii) . See also Keyser, 648
F.3d at 724. The criteria for the listed impairments, known
as Listings, are enumerated in 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P,
appendix 1 (Listed Impairments) .
Commissioner proceeds beyond Step Three, she must assess the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC). The
claimant's RFC is an assessment of the sustained,
work-related physical and mental activities the claimant can
still do on a regular and continuing basis despite his
limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e). See also
Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-8p. "A 'regular and
continuing basis' means 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week,
or an equivalent schedule." SSR 96-8p, at *1. In other
words, the Social Security Act does not require complete
incapacity to be ...