United States District Court, D. Oregon
KYNAN A. SHANTZ, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
SHERWOOD J. REESE DREW L. JOHNSON Attorneys for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney
GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney
MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel
ELIZABETH MOUM Special Assistant United States Attorneys
Office of General Counsel Social Security Attorneys for
OPINION AND ORDER
J. BROWN, UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE.
Kynan A. Shantz seeks judicial review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the
Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the
decision of the Commissioner and DISMISSES
10, 2013, Plaintiff filed his applications for DIB. Tr.
Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of February 1,
2012. Tr. 10. His application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. On March 8, 2016, an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) held a hearing. Tr. 38-68. At the hearing
Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. Plaintiff and a
vocational expert (VE) testified at the hearing.
18, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision in which he found
Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to
benefits. Tr. 10-23. On June 27, 2017, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request to review the ALJ's
decision, and the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-3. See Sims v.
Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
24, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court seeking
review of the Commissioner's decision.
was born on April 25, 1974, and has some college education.
Tr. 21, 207. Plaintiff alleges disability since February 1,
2012, and was last insured through December 31, 2017. Tr. 10,
12. Plaintiff alleges disability due to chronic lumbar
strain; chronic tendonitis at the Achilles insertion point;
excessive prominence posterior right calcaneous post op;
right-hip muscular strain; patellofemeral strain both knees;
left-hip muscular strain; dysthymic disorder; and
muscular/skeletal injuries to his feet, knees, and hips. Tr.
as noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's summary
of the medical evidence. After carefully reviewing the
medical records, this Court adopts the ALJ's summary of
the medical evidence. See Tr. 12-21.
initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish
disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110
(9th Cir. 2012). To meet this burden a claimant must
demonstrate his inability "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 ALJ must
develop the record when there is ambiguous evidence or when
the record is inadequate to allow for proper evaluation of
the evidence. McLeod v. Astrue, 640 F.3d 881, 885
(9th Cir. 2011)(quoting Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d
453, 459-60 (9th Cir. 2001)).
district 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 as a whole.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See also Brewes v.
Comm'r, 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012).
Substantial evidence is “relevant evidence that a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Molina, 674 F.3d. at
1110-11 (quoting Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 690 (9th Cir. 2009)). It is
"more than a mere scintilla" of evidence but less
than a preponderance. Id. (citing
Valentine, 574 F.3d at 690).
is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in the medical evidence, and resolving ambiguities.
Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir.
2009). The court must weigh all of the evidence whether it
supports or detracts from the Commissioner's decision.
Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198
(9th Cir. 2008). Even when the evidence is susceptible to
more than one rational interpretation, the court must uphold
the Commissioner's findings if they are supported by
inferences reasonably drawn from the record. Ludwig v.
Astrue, 681 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2012). The court
may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1070 (9th Cir.
Security Regulations set out a five-step sequential process
for determining whether an applicant is disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act. Keyser v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec. Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011).
See also Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th
Cir. 2007); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. Each step is
One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(I). See also
Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.
Two the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant does not have any medically severe
impairment or combination of impairments. Stout v.
Comm'r Soc. Sec Admin., 454 F.3d 1050, 1052 (9th
Cir. 2006). See also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1509, 404.1520(a)(4)(ii); Keyser, 648 F.3d at
Three the Commissioner must determine whether a
claimant's impairments meet or equal one of the listed
impairments and are so severe that they preclude substantial
gainful activity. The claimant is disabled if the
Commissioner determines the claimant's impairments 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). See also
Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724. The criteria for the listed
impairments, known as Listings, are enumerated in 20 C.F.R.
part 404, subpart P, appendix 1 (Listed Impairments).
Commissioner proceeds beyond Step Three, she must assess the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC). The
claimant's RFC is an assessment of the sustained,
work-related physical and mental activities the claimant can
still do on a regular and continuing basis despite his
limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). See also
Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-8p. “A 'regular and
continuing basis' means 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week,
or an equivalent schedule." SSR 96-8p, at *1. In other
words, the Social Security Act does not require complete
incapacity to be disabled. Taylor v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 659 F.3d 1228, 1234-35 (9th Cir.
2011)(citing Fair v. Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 603 (9th
Cir. 1989)). The assessment of a claimant's RFC is at the
heart of Steps Four and Five of the sequential analysis when
the ALJ is determining whether a claimant can still work
despite severe medical impairments. An improper evaluation of
the claimant's ability to perform specific work-related
functions "could make the difference between a finding
of 'disabled' and 'not disabled.'" SSR
96-8p, at *4.
Four the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant retains the RFC to perform work he
has done in the past. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv).
See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.
Commissioner reaches Step Five, she must determine whether
the claimant is able to do any other work that exists in the
national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). See
also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724-25. Here the burden shifts
to the Commissioner to show a significant number of jobs
exist in the national economy that the claimant can perform.
Lockwood v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 616 F.3d
1068, 1071 (9th Cir. 2010). The Commissioner may satisfy this
burden through the testimony of a VE or by reference to the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines set forth in the regulations at
20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 2. If the
Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g)(1).
One the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since February 1, 2012, his alleged onset
date. Tr. 12.
Two the ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe impairments of
“status post surgeries of the right ankle, lumbar
degenerative disc disease, and bilateral hip strain.”
Three the ALJ found Plaintiff does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meet or equal the criteria
for any impairment in the Listing of Impairments. Tr. 15-16.
The ALJ found Plaintiff has the RFC to perform light work
with the following limitations: lift and/or carry 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand and/or walk for
six hours in an eight-hour work day, and sit for six hours in
an eight-hour work day. The ALJ also found Plaintiff can
frequently balance; occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and
crawl; frequently perform overhead reaching with both arms;
and frequently handle, finger, and feel with both hands. The
ALJ also found Plaintiff is precluded from working around