United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
Ann M. Phillips, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
WILBORN Wilborn Law Office, P.C. Of Attorney for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney RENATA GOWIE Assistant
United States Attorney District of Oregon
A. BODEN Special Assistant United States Attorney Office of
the General Counsel
OPINION AND ORDER
V. Acosta United States Magistrate Judge.
Mary Phillips ("Phillips") seeks judicial review of
the final decision by the Social Security Commissioner
("Commissioner") denying her applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles
II and XVI 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 and SSI on August 8, 2012, alleging disability
as of January 1, 1996, due to major depression, obesity,
bi-polar disorder, arthritis, and vein occlusion of the left
eye. Tr. 274. Her application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Tr. 34. A video hearing was held on February
9, 2015, before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"); Phillips was represented by a non-attorney
representative and testified, as did a vocational expert
("VE"). Tr. 72-91. On May 7, 2015, ALJ Marilyn
Mauer issued a decision finding Phillips not disabled. Tr.
34-45. Phillips 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. 1-3.
1964, Phillips was 31 years old on the disability onset date.
Tr. 43. She dropped out of high school in the ninth grade but
later obtained her GED. Tr. 275, 604. She previously worked
as a general laborer and housekeeper. Tr. 275.
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 416.920. 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) and 416.920(b). If so, the
claimant is not disabled.
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); 4l6.92O(a)(4)(ii). If the
claimant does not have a severe impairment, he is not
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);
4l6.92O(a)(4)(iii). 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); 404.920(f); 4l6.92O(a)(4)(iv). If
the claimant can work, he is not disabled; if he cannot
perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the
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); 416.960(c). If
the Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566; 416.920(a)(4)(v).