United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Aiken United States District Judge
Daydrena Jaslin Walker-Williams 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 Supplemental Security Income
("SSI"). For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded for
immediate payment of benefits.
September 24, 2012, plaintiff applied for SSI. She alleged
disability beginning August 1, 2012, due to back pain,
shoulder pain, obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder, bipolar disorder, and intellectual disability. In
2013, Plaintiffs application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. On March 4, 2015, plaintiff appeared at a
hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ").
At the hearing, plaintiff testified and was represented by an
attorney. A vocational expert also testified.
found plaintiff not disabled in a written decision issued
April 1, 2015. After the Appeals Council denied review,
plaintiff filed the present complaint.
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." Edhmd 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
application date, September 24, 2012. 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: obesity, back pain, and
borderline intellectual functioning. Tr. 19; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), (c); id
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(ii), (c). At step 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 §§ 416.920(a)(4)(iii), (d).
then assessed plaintiffs residual functional capacities
("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); id.
§ 416.920(e). The ALJ found the plaintiff could perform
medium work, except that she "is able to do simple
routine work consistent with unskilled work." Tr. 23; 20
C.F.R. 416.967(c) At step four, the ALJ concluded the
plaintiff had no past relevant work. Tr. 27; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f); id
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(iv), (f). At step five, the ALJ
found that plaintiff could perform work existing in the
national economy; specifically, plaintiff could work as a
sandwich maker or fast food worker. Tr. 28; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), (g)(1). Accordingly, the ALJ
found plaintiff not disabled and denied her application for
contends the ALJ committed two harmful legal errors in
determining that she was not disabled. First, plaintiff
argues the ALJ's determination that the plaintiff did not
meet or medically equal the criteria of Listing 12.05C was in
error. Second, plaintiff asserts the ALJ erred by failing to
incorporate the assessment of State psychologist Dr. Holmes,
despite affording it substantial weight.