United States District Court, D. Oregon
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
D. Clarke United States Magistrate Judge.
Derek Phillips brings this action for judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner'") denying his application for
Title 11 Disability Insurance Benefits under the Social
Security Act. For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.
November 7, 2012, plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance
Benefits, alleging disability as of April 19,
2000. Tr. 40, 165-71. His application was denied
initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 104-08, 112-14. On
February 12, 2015, a hearing was held before an
Administrative Law Judge (''ALJ"), wherein
plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified. as did a
vocational expert ("VE"). Tr. 58-83. On March 27,
2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Tr.
40-53. After the Appeals Council denied his request for
review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court. Tr. 1-6.
December 1, 1966, plaintiff was 33 years old on the alleged
onset date and 48 years old at the time of the hearing. Tr.
165. He obtained undergraduate and law degrees over the
course of several years. Tr. 62, 190. Plaintiff worked
previously as a dining room attendant, informal waiter, and
kitchen helper. Tr. 79. Plaintiff alleges disability due to
depression, anxiety. post-traumatic stress disorder
(''PTSD"), and back and knee pain. Tr. 67, 189.
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. Hammock
v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial
evidence is ''more than a mere scintilla. It 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) (citation and internal
quotations omitted). The court must weigh "both the
evidence that supports and detracts from the
[Commissioner's] conclusions." 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.
Barnharl. 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).
initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant 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. 416.920. First, the Commissioner
determines whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial
gainful activity." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If so, the claimant is not
two, the Commissioner evaluates whether the claimant has a
"medically severe impairment or combination of
impairments." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). If the claimant does not have a
severe impairment, he is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's
impairments, either singly or in combination, meet or equal
"one of a number of listed impairments that the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity." Yuckert. 482
U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If so, the
claimant is presumptively disabled; if not. the Commissioner
proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner resolves whether the claimant can
still perform "past relevant work." 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(f). If the claimant can work, he is not
disabled; if he cannot perform past relevant work, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner. At step five, the Commissioner
must establish that the claimant can perform other work
existing in significant numbers in the national or local
economy. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(g). If the Commissioner meets this burden,
the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1566.
one of the five step sequential evaluation process outlined
above, the ALJ found plaintiff "did not engage in
substantial gainful activity during the period from his
alleged onset date of April 19, 2000 through his date last
insured of June 30, 2001." Tr. 42. At step two, the ALJ
determined the following impairments were medically
determinable and severe through the date last insured:
depression, PTSD, and "torn ACL with surgical
repair." Id. At step three, the ALJ found that
plaintiffs impairments, either singly or in combination, did
not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.
he did not establish presumptive disability at step three,
the ALJ continued to evaluate how plaintiffs impairments
affected his ability to work. The ALJ resolved that plaintiff
had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to
perform a limited range of light work prior to the date last
insured: "He could occasionally climb; he was limited to
performing simple, entry level work; he should not have had
transactional dealings with the public; and he could have
occasional interaction with co-workers but no team
activities." Tr. 44.
four, the ALJ determined plaintiff could not perform any past
relevant work. Tr. 51. At step five, the ALJ concluded, based
on the VE's testimony, that there were a significant
number of jobs in the national economy that plaintiff could