United States District Court, D. Oregon
Merrill Schneider Schneider Kerr & Robichaux Attorneys
E. Herbert Assistant United States Attorney, Sarah Moum
Social Security Administration Office of the Counsel
Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION & ORDER
HERNÁNDEZ, District Judge
Susan Ann Simshaw Dunagan brings this action for judicial
review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act. This Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)). The
Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded for
applied for SSI on January 11, 2013. Tr. 21,
Her applications were denied initially and on
reconsideration. Tr. 93-96, 100-02. On June 16, 2015,
Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 32. On July 31, 2015, the
ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 26. The Appeals Council
denied review. Tr. 1.
alleges disability based on “Ddd, chronic pain, severe
hypertension, history of uterine cancer, joint/heart
problems, and depression with anxiety.” Tr. 162. She
was 62 at the time of the administrative hearing. Tr. 38.
Plaintiff has a high school education and past relevant work
experience as a bingo hall cashier and attendant. Tr. 39-40,
claimant is disabled if 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). Disability claims are evaluated according to a
five-step procedure. See, e.g., Valentine v.
Comm'r, 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009). The
claimant bears the ultimate burden of proving disability.
first step, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” If so,
the claimant is not disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
416.920(b). In step two, the Commissioner determines whether
the claimant has a “medically severe impairment or
combination of impairments.” Yuckert, 482 U.S.
137 at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c),
416.920(c). If not, the claimant is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether the impairment
meets or equals “one of a number of listed impairments
that the [Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to
preclude substantial gainful activity.”
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is conclusively
presumed disabled; if not, the Commissioner proceeds to step
four. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant,
despite any impairment(s), has the residual functional
capacity to perform “past relevant work.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If the claimant
can, the claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot
perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner. In step five, the Commissioner must establish
that the claimant can perform other work. Yuckert,
482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) &
(f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the Commissioner meets his
burden and proves that the claimant is able to perform other
work which exists in the national economy, the claimant is
not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.
one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity after her application date of
January 11, 2013. Tr. 19. Next, at steps two and three, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: “cardiomyopathy, status post hysterectomy
and uterine cancer, hypertension, rotator cuff strain and
osteopenia.” Tr. 19. However, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal
the severity of a listed impairment. Tr. 22. At step four,
the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the residual functional
capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) with the following
[Plaintiff] can lift and carry up to ten pounds frequently
and 20 pounds occasionally. She can stand and/or walk
approximately six hours out of eight in an eight-hour
workday, with normal breaks. She can occasionally climb ramps
or stairs. She can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds.
She can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl.
She should not work around workplace hazards such as
unprotected heights and dangerous machinery. She can only
occasionally reach bilaterally.”
Tr. 21. Taking into consideration these limitations, the ALJ
concluded at step four that Plaintiff is capable of
performing her past relevant work as a bingo hall cashier and
attendant. Tr. 27.Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is
not disabled. Tr. 27.
reviewing court must affirm the Commissioner's decision
if the Commissioner applied proper legal standards and the
findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004).
“Substantial evidence” means “more than a
mere scintilla, but less than preponderance.” Bray
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222
(9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d
1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995)). It is “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Id.
court must weigh the evidence that supports and detracts from
the ALJ's conclusion. Lingenfelter v. Astrue,
504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998)). The
reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of
the Commissioner. Id. (citing Robbins v. Soc.
Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)); see
also Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir.
2001). Variable interpretations of the evidence are
insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is a
rational reading. Id.; see also Batson, 359
F.3d at 1193. However, the court ...