United States District Court, D. Oregon
SONJA K. SKAGGS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
A. RUSSO United States Magistrate Judge
K. Skaggs (“plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of
the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under XVI of
the Social Security Act (“the Act”). For the
reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner
should be REVERSED and REMANDED for additional proceedings as
filed for SSI on June 4, 2012, alleging disability beginning
June 15, 1993. Tr. 24. Plaintiff alleged disability based on:
dyslexia, lack of education, bad ankles, and diabetes. Tr.
24, 79. Her application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Tr. 79-90, 93-106. An Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) held hearings on August 26, 2014,
and September 23, 2014, and on January 26, 2015, issued a
decision finding plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 21-40; 41-69;
70- 77. On July 12, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Tr. 1-6. This appeal followed.
performed the five step sequential analysis for determining
whether a person is disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. At step one,
the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the date of her application. Tr. 26.
At step two, the ALJ determined the following impairments
were medically determinable and severe: “type-2
diabetes (DM-2); left trochanter bursitis; mild left ankle
[degenerative joint disease]; methamphetamine dependence in
early remission; marijuana dependence; dysthymia; [and]
antisocial personality features.” Id. At step
three, the ALJ determined plaintiff's impairments,
neither individually nor in combination, met or equaled the
requirements of a listed impairment. Tr. 27.
the ALJ did not establish presumptive disability at step
three, the ALJ continued to evaluate how plaintiff's
impairments affected her ability to work. The ALJ resolved
plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work with the following
The claimant can lift, carry, push and pull 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. She can sit 6 hours in
an 8 hour workday and also stand and walk 6 hours in an 8
hour workday. The claimant can understand and remember simple
instructions and procedures. She has sufficient
concentration, persistence and pace to complete simple,
routine tasks for a normal workday and workweek but her
concentration, persistence and pace will diminish if required
to complete more complex tasks. She should only have
occasional brief, superficial interactions with the general
public and with co-workers. She is able to accept
supervision. The claimant should be in a workplace with few
changes to the work setting. She should not be required to do
math as a work function and should not have to read for work
at any level greater than 5th grade.
four, the ALJ determined plaintiff had no past relevant work
as defined by the regulations. Tr. 35. At step five, the ALJ
found, based on the RFC and the vocational expert
(“VE”) testimony, a significant number of jobs
existed in the national and local economy such that plaintiff
could sustain employment despite her impairments. Tr. 35-36.
Specifically, the ALJ found plaintiff could perform the jobs
of laundry folder and silver wrapper. Tr. 36.
district court must 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, 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004).
Substantial evidence “means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971) (internal citation omitted). In reviewing the
Commissioner's alleged errors, a court must weigh
“both the evidence that supports and detracts from the
[Commissioner's] conclusion.” Martinez v.
Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). Variable
interpretations of the evidence are insignificant if the
Commissioner's interpretation is rational. Burch v.
Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).
When the evidence before the ALJ is subject to more than one
rational interpretation, a court must defer to the ALJ's
conclusion. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1198 (internal
citation omitted). The reviewing court, however, cannot
affirm the Commissioner's decision on grounds the agency
did not invoke in making its decision. Stout v.
Comm'r, 454 F.3d 1050, 1054 (9th Cir.
2006). Finally, the court may not reverse an
ALJ's decision on account of an error that is harmless.
Id. at 1055-56. “[T]he burden of
showing that an error is harmful normally falls upon the
party attacking the agency's determination.”
Shinseki v. Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 409 (2009).
argues the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to develop the record,
specifically in failing to order IQ testing under Listing
12.05C and failing to order a neuropsychological evaluation;
and (2) improperly discrediting her subjective symptom
testimony. Pl.'s Op. Br. at 2-3 (doc. 16). The
Commissioner concedes the ALJ's decision is not supported
by substantial evidence and that this case ...