United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael J. McShane United States District Judge
Eileen Rhodes seeks judicial review of a final decision of
the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying her application for Supplemental
Security Income (SSI). The Commissioner found that Rhodes was
not disabled according to the Social Security Act. This court
has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
1383(c) (3). Because the Commissioner's decision is based
on proper legal standards and their findings are supported by
substantial evidence, the Commissioner's decision is
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
filed her SSI application on May 10, 2013, claiming a
disability onset date of June 1, 1999. Tr. 11. The claim was
denied initially, and upon reconsideration. Tr. 88-104. A
hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on
March 3, 2015 (Tr. 32), and on April 13, 2015, the ALJ denied
Plaintiff's claim (Tr. 8-26). The Appeals Council denied
Ms. Rhodes's request for a review of the ALJ's
decision on July 29, 2015, making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 454-456. This appeal
Commissioner's decision will be affirmed if her decision
meets all the legal requirements and her legal conclusions
are supported by substantial evidence within the record. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r for Soc. Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004).
“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.'” Hill v. Astrue,
698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Sandgathe v.
Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997)). In
determining whether substantial evidence exists, this Court
reviews the administrative record as a whole, weighing both
the evidence that supports and that which weakens the
Commissioner's decision. Martinez v. Heckler,
807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986).
court may not substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner's if an analysis of the evidence on the
record as a whole can reasonably support either affirming or
reversing the commissioner's decision. Messmer v.
Colvin, 2016 WL 53397278 at *1 (D. Or. Sept.23, 2016).
However, a reviewing court can only affirm the
Commissioner's decision on grounds that the Commissioner
considered when making its decision. Stout v. Comm'r
Soc. Sec. Admin., 454 F.3d 1050, 1054 (9th Cir. 2006).
will set aside a decision supported by substantial evidence
if the Commissioner's decision is not free of legal
error. Robbins v. Social Sec. Admin. 466 F.3d 880,
882 (9th Cir. 2006). However, an error that is harmless is
not sufficient to reverse an ALJ's decision.
Stout, 454 F.3d 1050, 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).
is not required to discuss all the evidence presented, but
must explain why any evidence of significant probative value
has been rejected. Stark v. Shalala, 886 F.Supp.
733, 735 (D. Or. 1995).
to the Social Security Act, a person is disabled if she is
unable to perform substantial gainful activity (SGA) due to a
physical or mental impairment that is medically determinable.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The impairment must be such
that it is expected to result in death, or an impairment that
has lasted or could last for a continuous period of not less
than 12 months. Id. When determining whether an
individual is disabled, the Social Security Administration
applies a five step sequential evaluation process. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920. The burden of proof for the first four steps
lies with the claimant and if she meets her burden at each of
those steps, the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner
at step five. Id.
at step one, the ALJ determined that Rhodes did not engage in
any SGA since April 23, 2013, the application date. Tr. 13.
At step two, the ALJ concluded that Rhodes had the following
severe impairments: sacroiliitis, irritable bowel syndrome,
myofascial pain/fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, cannabis
dependency, history of polysubstance abuse, cognitive
disorder NOS, PTSD, panic disorder and history of possible
cerebrovascular accident in 1999. Id. The ALJ found
moderate difficulties in social functioning and
concentration, persistence or pace. Tr. 15.
three, the ALJ found that none of Rhodes' impairments
individually or combined met or medically equaled the
impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. Subsequently, the ALJ found that Rhodes had the residual
function capacity to perform light work and is able to
understand, remember, and carry out simple, routine and
repetitive tasks with occasional public and coworker contact;
and should avoid all workplace hazards due to ongoing
marijuana dependence. Tr. 16. At step four and five, the ALJ
found that Rhodes has no past relevant work, but retains the
ability to work as a photocopy machine operator, a mail clerk
and an office helper. Tr. 21-22.
argues that the ALJ's decision to deny her SSI claim was
erroneous as a matter of law and was not based on substantial
evidence for a number of reasons. Pl.'s Br. 1-2, ECF No.
17. Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred in (1) failing to credit
the opinion of Dr. Alvord, the examining psychologist, (2)
failing to give to clear and convincing reasons for rejecting
plaintiff's testimony, and (3) failing ...