Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cagle v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division

April 23, 2018

WYLIE C. CAGLE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          Ann Aiken United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Wylie C. Cagle, brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"). The Commissioner denied plaintiffs applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded for further proceedings.


         In March 2013, plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI. He alleged disability beginning September 10, 2008. In 1982, plaintiff had a traumatic injury in which his left hand was completely severed; it was later surgically reattached. His disability application was based on several issues related to that injury (arthritis, weakness, and caipal tunnel syndrome in his left hand), as well as on sciatic nerve issues in his right leg, abdominal pain, chest pains, generalized pain, fatigue, depression, and prediabetes. Plaintiffs applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. On July 22, 2015, plaintiff appeared at a hearing before an ALJ. At the hearing, plaintiff testified and was represented by an attorney. Through his attorney, plaintiff amended his disability onset date to May 18, 2013, his fiftieth birthday, and the day on which he was reclassified as an individual closely approaching advanced age under the Social Security regulations. A vocational expert also testified. The ALJ found plaintiff not disabled in a written decision issued September 25, 2015. After the Appeals Council denied review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court.


         The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based upon proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Berry v. Astrue, 622 F.3d 1228, 1231 (9th Cir. 2010). "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." Gutierrez v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 740 F.3d 519, 522 (9th Cir. 2014) (citation and quotation marks omitted). The court must weigh "both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the ALJ's conclusion." Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th Cir. 2001). If the evidence is subject to more than one interpretation but the Commissioner's decision is rational, the Commissioner must be affirmed, because "the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner." Edlund v. Massanari 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).


         The initial burden of proof rests upon plaintiff to establish disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486 (9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, plaintiff 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).

         The 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(a)(4); id. § 416.920(a)(4). At step one, the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in "substantial gainful activity" since the alleged disability onset date. Tr. 21; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), (b); id. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(i), (b). At step two, the ALJ found plaintiff had the following severe impairments: "osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease; obesity; left carpal tunnel syndrome; and depression!.]" Tr. 21; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), (c); id §§ 416.920(a)(4)(ii), (c). The ALJ considered the record evidence of diabetes but concluded it was not a severe impairment because "[t]he overall record indicates that the claimant was not diagnosed with diabetes until February 2014, well after his amended onset date of disability, and once he was diagnosed he learned quickly to control his symptoms with diet, exercise and compliance with prescribed medication." Tr. 22.

         At step three, the ALJ determined plaintiffs impairments, whether considered singly or in combination, did not meet or equal "one of the listed impairments" that the Commissioner acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. Tr. 23; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), (d); id. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(iii), (d). The ALJ found plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to

perform less than light work as defined in 20 CFR 404, 1567(b) and 416.967(b). The claimant is further limited to no more than occasional climbing, and no more than occasional pushing, pulling, handling, grasping and fingering with his left upper extremity. The claimant would also be limited to jobs where he has no more than occasional interaction with coworkers and the general public.

Tr. 25; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); id § 416.920(e). At step four, the ALJ concluded plaintiff could not perform any of his past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f); id. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(iv), (f). At step five, the ALJ found that plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, such as mold machine attendant and stenciler. Accordingly, the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled and denied his applications for benefits.


         Plaintiff contends that the Commissioner committed three harmful errors in evaluating his application for disability benefits. First, plaintiff argues that the post-hearing opinion of his treating physician, Molly Tveite, M.D., establishes that the ALJ's evaluation of plaintiff s RFC and conclusion at step five are not supported by substantial evidence. Second, plaintiff contends that the ALJ impermissibly gave little weight to his testimony about his symptoms without providing clear and convincing reasons for doing so. Finally, plaintiff avers that the ALJ erred in failing to deem his diabetic neuropathy a severe impairment at step two, leading to additional errors in ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.