United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Aiken, United States District Judge
Penta Leslie Swanson brings this action pursuant to the
Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g) and 1383(c)(3), 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
13, 2013, plaintiff applied for SSI. She alleged disability
beginning December 1, 2009, due to Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder ("PTSD"), Major Depressive Disorder with
suicidal ideation and a history of multiple suicide attempts,
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and borderline
personality disorder. Plaintiffs SSI application was denied
initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested
a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"). A hearing was held on January 13, 2015. At
the hearing, plaintiff was represented by an attorney, and a
Vocation Expert ("VE') testified. On February 20,
2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiffs claim for
benefits. After the Appeals Council denied review, plaintiff
filed the present complaint in this Court.
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." Edlund
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, May 13, 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: PTSD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
("ADHD"), major depressive disorder, and borderline
personality disorder. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), (c); id.
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. §§
moving on to step four, the ALJ assessed plaintiffs residual
functional capacity ("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(e); id. § 416.920(e). The ALJ found
that plaintiff could "perform a full range of work at
all extertional levels but with the following nonexertional
limitations: [.., ] simple instructions [...] few, if any,
workplace changes [...] occasional and indirect contact with
coworkers and the general public." Tr. at 26. At step
four, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is unable to perform
her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f); id.
§§416.920(a)(4)(iv), (f). At step five, however,
the ALJ found that plaintiff could perform work in the
national economy; specifically, plaintiff could work as a
library helper, photo finisher, or office checker. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v)} (g)(1).
the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled and denied her
applications for benefits.
contends the ALJ committed reversible error at three places
in the five-step analysis. First, plaintiff asserts the ALJ
erred in formulating the RFC with regard to limitations in
concentration, persistence, and pace. Plaintiff also avers
that the ALJ erred in discounting certain medical opinion
evidence. Finally, plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in
discounting her symptom testimony.
is the most a person can do, despite his or her physical or
mental impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545, 416.945.
In formulating the RFC, the ALJ must consider all medically
determinable impairments, including those that are not
"severe, " and evaluate "all of the relevant
medical and other evidence, " including the
claimant's testimony, Id.; SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL
374184. In determining a claimant's RFC, the ALJ is
responsible for resolving conflicts in the medical testimony
and translating the claimant's impairments into concrete
functional limitations in the RFC. Stubbs-Danielson v.
Astrue,539 F.3d 1169, 1174 (9th Cir. 2008).
Only limitations supported by substantial ...