United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
LORI C. WILCOX, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
S. GRAF OF ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF
J. WILLIAMS UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, RENATA GOWIE ASSISTANT
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, MARTHA A. BODEN SPECIAL ASSISTANT
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY OF ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANT
OPINION AND ORDER
V. Acosta United States Magistrate Judge
Wilcox ("Wilcox") seeks judicial review of the
final decision by the Social Security Commissioner
("Commissioner") denying her application for
Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title
II of the Social Security Act ("SSA"). This Court
has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Based on a careful
review of the record, the Commissioner's decision is
REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings.
filed for DIB on May 19, 2013, alleging disability as of
March 15, 2011, due to peripheral motor neuropathy; chronic
myofascial pain syndrome of the neck and shoulders; chronic
parascapular myofascial pain syndrome; upper extremity pain
syndrome; upper extremity paresthesia; vascular/neurogenic
thoracic outlet syndrome; shoulder impingement syndrome;
degenerative lumbrosacral spondylosis; cervical myalgia;
degenerative arthritis of the sacroiliac joints. Tr. 200.
Wilcox achieved sufficient quarters of coverage to remain
insured through December 31, 2016. Tr. 16. Her application
was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 16. A
hearing was held on August 25, 2015, before an Administrative
Law Judge ("ALJ"); Wilcox was represented by
counsel and testified, as did a vocational expert
("VE"). Tr. 16. On November 30, 2015, ALJ Alex
Karlin issued a decision finding Wilcox not disabled. Tr.
16-30. Wilcox requested timely review of the ALJ's
decision and, after the Appeals Council denied her request
for review, filed a complaint in this Court. Tr. 1-5.
1958, Wilcox was 52 years old on the disability onset date.
Tr. 196. She completed high school. Tr. 41. She previously
worked in orthodontic offices as an orthodontic assistant,
appointment coordinator, and financial coordinator. Tr. 225.
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.
Barnhart, 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.
§§ 404.1502 and 404.920. First, the Commissioner
considers 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) and 404.920(f). If the claimant can
work, he is not disabled; if he cannot perform past relevant
work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner.
five, the Commissioner must demonstrate 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.
one of the sequential evaluation process outlined above, the
ALJ found that Wilcox had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since ...