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Brown v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 20, 2018

MITCHELL C. BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          MERRILL SCHNEIDER Schneider Kerr & Robichaux Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney RENATA GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney, MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel MARTHA A. BODEN Special Assistant United States Attorney Social Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN United States Senior District Judge.

         Plaintiff Mitchell C. Brown seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which he denied Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II and 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. § 405(g).

         For the reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner and DISMISSES this matter.

         ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI on January 9, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of December 31, 2011. Tr. 69, 85, 199, 206.[1] The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 69-132. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on April 29, 2016. Tr. 34-68. Plaintiff was represented at the hearing. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified.

         The ALJ issued a decision on August 4, 2016, in which he found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 14-28. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.984(d), that decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on December 5, 2016, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-4. See also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on December 31, 1960, and was 55 years old at the time of the hearing. Tr. 199. Plaintiff completed high school and two years of college. Tr. 245. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a sales representative and an "outside sales representative." Tr. 27.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), depression, shoulder injury, ankle injury, attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), and neuropathy of the right foot. Tr. 244.

         Except when 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. 21-22, 24-27.

         STANDARDS

         The initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish disability. Molina v. Astrue, 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, 640 F.3d 881, 885 (9th Cir. 2011)(quoting Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459-60 (9th Cir. 2001)).

         The 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. Comm'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).

         The ALJ 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. 2006).

         DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         The 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. ...


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