United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael McShane, United States District Judge
Jessica Marianne Maiden (“Maiden”) seeks judicial
review of the Commissioner's decision denying her
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act (“the Act”). This court has jurisdiction
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). Because
the Commissioner's decision is not based on proper legal
standards or supported by substantial evidence, the decision
is REVERSED, and this case is REMANDED for further
filed applications for SSI on March 7, 2013, and
children's disability benefits under Title II on April 4,
2013, alleging disability onset dates of January 1, 1997, and
December 1, 2014, respectively. Tr. 84-87. After the
Commissioner denied the applications initially and upon
reconsideration, Maiden requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”), which was held
on November 10, 2015. Tr. 35-53.. On December 1, 2015, ALJ
Paul G. Robeck issued a written decision finding Maiden not
disabled. Tr. 20-28. On January 23, 2017, the Appeals Council
denied Maiden's subsequent request for review, so the
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. Tr. 1-3. This appeal followed.
reviewing court shall affirm the Commissioner's decision
if the decision is based on proper legal standards and the
legal 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 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.'” Hill v. Astrue,
698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Sandgathe v.
Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997)). To determine
whether substantial evidence exists, I review the
administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence
that supports and that which detracts from the ALJ's
conclusion. Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323, 326 (9th
Cir. 1989). “If the evidence can reasonably support
either affirming or reversing, ‘the reviewing court may
not substitute its judgment' for that of the
Commissioner.” Gutierrez v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 740 F.3d 519, 523 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720-21 (9th Cir.
claimant is disabled if he or she is 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). The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) utilizes a five-step sequential
evaluation to determine disability. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520; 416.920 (2012). The initial burden of proof rests
upon the claimant to meet the first four steps. If a claimant
satisfies his or her burden with respect to the first four
steps, the burden then shifts to the Commissioner for step
five. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At step five, the
Commissioner must demonstrate the claimant is capable of
making an adjustment to other work after considering the
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), age, education, and work experience.
Id. If the Commissioner fails to meet this burden,
the claimant is considered disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v); 416.920(a)(4)(v). If, however, the
Commissioner proves the claimant is able to perform other
work existing in significant numbers in the national economy,
the claimant is found not disabled. Bustamante v.
Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th Cir. 2001).
one, the ALJ determined Maiden had not worked since March 7,
2013, the application date. At step two, the ALJ concluded
that Maiden had the following severe impairments:
fibromyalgia; depression; and anxiety. Tr. 22. The ALJ noted
that Maiden's psoriatic arthritis was well-controlled
with Humira, and therefore did not find it
“severe.” Tr. 23. Between steps three and four,
the ALJ assessed Maiden's RFC. He determined Maiden
retains the capacity to perform light work, except that she
is limited to unskilled work with incidental public contact
and occasional postural activities. Tr. 24. At step four, the
ALJ found Maiden did not have any past relevant work. Tr. 27.
At step five, based on the testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”), the ALJ concluded that Maiden could
perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy, including photocopy machine operator, and
seedling sorter. Tr. 27-28.
contends the ALJ: (1) erroneously discredited her symptom
testimony; and (2) erroneously discredited the opinion of her
treating physician in favor of the state agency
argues the ALJ erred by rejecting her subjective symptom
testimony. An ALJ is not “required to believe every
allegation of disabling pain, or else disability benefits
would be available for the asking, a result plainly contrary
to 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5)(A).” Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1112 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Fair v. Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 603 (9th Cir.1989)).
The ALJ “may consider a range of factors in assessing
credibility.” Ghanim v. Colvin, 763 F.3d 1154,
1163 (9th Cir. 2014). These factors can include
“ordinary techniques of credibility evaluation, ”
id., as well as:
(1) whether the claimant engages in daily activities
inconsistent with the alleged symptoms; (2) whether the
claimant takes medication or undergoes other treatment for
the symptoms; (3) whether the claimant fails to follow,
without adequate explanation, a prescribed course of
treatment; and (4) whether the alleged symptoms are
consistent with the medical evidence.
Lingenfelter v. Astrue,
504 F.3d 1028, 1040 (9th
Cir.2007). However, a negative credibility finding made
solely because the claimant's symptom testimony “is
not substantiated affirmatively by objective medical
evidence” is legally insufficient. Robbins v. Soc.
Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006).
Nonetheless, the ALJ's credibility finding may be upheld
even if not all of the ...