United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Aiken, United States District Judge.
John Gordon Elliot 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
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). For the
reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is
REVERSED AND REMANDED for further proceedings.
January 2013, plaintiff protectively filed an application for
SSI, alleging disability due to a psychotic disorder
beginning on November 25, 2013. His claim was denied both
initially and upon reconsideration. On May 4, 2015, plaintiff
appeared at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") and testified. Plaintiff was represented by
an attorney. A vocational expert ("VE") also
testified at the hearing. In a written decision issued June
3, 2015, the ALJ found the plaintiff not disabled. After the
Appeals Council denied plaintiffs request for review, this
federal court "shall have the power to enter a judgment
affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding
the cause for rehearing." 42 U.S.C. 405(g) (ellipses
omitted); see Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1019
(9th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted).
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
it is based on the proper legal standards and the findings
are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); see also Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501
(9th. Cir. 1989). "Substantial evidence" means
"more than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance, " Bray v. Comm'r Soc.
Sec, Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th
Cir. 1995) (quotation marks omitted)). It means "such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Id. (quoting
Andrews, 53 F.3d at 1039).
the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, the Commissioner's conclusion must be
upheld. Burch v. Barnhart. 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th
Cir, 2005). Variable interpretations of the evidence are
insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is a
rational reading of the record, and the Court may not
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. See
Baison v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004).
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.
Yuckerf, 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 of January 14, 2013. 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: psychotic disorder not otherwise specified and
cannabis abuse in claimed remission. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), (c); id. §§
416.920(a)(4)(H), (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
proceeding to step four, the ALJ assessed plaintiffs residual
functional capacity ("RFC").
found plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to:
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following nonexertional limitations: He could
sustain concentration, persistence, an pace fro only simple,
routine, repetitive tasks, one-to two-steps in nature. He
would not be able to sustain work of a more complex nature.
He can have no public contact. He would work best working
alone, not as part of a team. He should avoid exposure ...