United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Aiken United States District Judge
Nicole Eileen Hill 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 applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). For the
reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is
reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
November 2012, plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI. She alleged
disability beginning November 16, 2011, due to fibromyalgia,
eczema, anxiety, depression, PTSD, migraines, learning
disability (not otherwise specified), endometriosis, asthma,
and sleep apnea. Plaintiffs DIB and SSI applications were
denied initially and upon reconsideration, with the
reconsideration denial dated September 2013. On March 3,
2015, plaintiff appeared at a hearing before an ALJ and
testified. A vocational expert also testified. Plaintiff was
represented by an attorney. In a written decision issued
April 24, 2015, the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled. After
the Appeals Council denied review, plaintiff filed a
complaint in this Court.
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 of 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. Massanari, 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. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).
initial burden of proof rests upon plaintiff to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, 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); id. § 416.920(a)(4). At step
one, the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in
"substantial gainful activity" since the alleged
disability onset date of November 16, 2011. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), (b); id.
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(i), (b). At step two, the ALJ
found plaintiff had the following severe impairments as of
the alleged onset Dated: obesity, depressive disorder,
anxiety disorder, learning disorder (not otherwise
specified), fibromyalgia, migraines, obstructive sleep apnea,
and urinary retention of unknown etiology. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), (c); id.
§§ 4l6.920(a)(4)(ii), (c).
three, the ALJ determined that 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. 20 C.F.R, §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), (d); id. §§
then assessed plaintiffs residual functional capacity
("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); id.
§ 416.920(e). The ALJ found plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity to:
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a). Specifically, the claimant can lift and/or carry
10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently;
she can stand and/or walk for six hours out of an eight-hour
workday with regular breaks; she can sit for six hours out of
an eight-hour workday with regular breaks; she is limited to
occasionally climbing ramps and stairs and never climbing
ladders, ropes or scaffolds. The claimant can occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant must
avoid concentrated exposure to wetness, avoid even moderate
exposure to respiratory irritants such as fumes and dust, and
needs ready access to a restroom due to urinary retention and
the need to self-catheterize. The claimant can understand,
remember, and carry out simple, routine and repetitive tasks
and can sustain occasional interaction with the general
Tr. 26. At step four, the ALJ concluded plaintiff could not
perform any of her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R, §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f). At step five, however, the ALJ found
that plaintiff could perform work existing in the national
economy; specifically, plaintiff could work as a computer
controlled color photo printer operator or assembler of small
products I. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.l520(a)(4)(v), ...