United States District Court, D. Oregon
J. Wall, Attorney for Plaintiff.
J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Renata Gowie,
Assistant United States Attorney, Jeffrey E. Staples, Special
Assistant United States Attorney, Office of General Counsel,
Social Security Administration, Of Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael H. Simon, United States District Judge.
Kelly (“Plaintiff) seeks judicial review of the second
denial of his application for Social Security Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income Benefits (“SSI”) by the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”). For the following reasons, the
Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded for
calculation and payment of benefits.
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
it is based on the proper legal standards and the findings
are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); see also Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501
(9th Cir. 1989). “Substantial evidence” means
“more than a mere scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Bray v. Comm 'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995)). It means “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quoting Andrews, 53
F.3d at 1039).
the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, the Commissioner's conclusion must be
upheld. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th
Cir. 2005). Variable interpretations of the evidence are
insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is a
rational reading of the record, and this Court may not
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. See
Batson v. Comm 'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d
1190, 1193, 1196 (9th Cir. 2004). “[A] reviewing court
must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm
simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting
evidence.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630
(9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Robbins v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (quotation
marks omitted)). A reviewing court, however, may not affirm
the Commissioner on a ground upon which the Commissioner did
not rely. Id; see also Bray, 554 F.3d at 1226.
applied for DIB and SSI on December 2, 2010, alleging
disability due to his autism, anxiety, post-traumatic stress
disorder, and comprehension and communication deficits.
Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of January 19,
2010. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application
initially on May 3, 2011, and upon reconsideration on
December 7, 2011. Upon notice of the denial, Plaintiff
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). The hearing occurred on May 9, 2013. The
ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled, relying on Plaintiff's
work history, the objective medical evidence, and the whole
of the record evidence to find Plaintiff.
November 11, 2013, Plaintiff submitted new evidence
concerning Plaintiff's accommodations at his past
relevant work. Plaintiff also submitted documents from the
Oregon Department of Corrections and a psychological
evaluation by Dr. Shane P. Haydon, Ph.D. Despite this new
evidence, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on December 10, 2014. Plaintiff subsequently filed
a complaint on January 7, 2015, seeking judicial review of
the final decision of the Commissioner denying his DIB and
SSI. This Court issued an Opinion and Order on November 25,
2015, finding that the new evidence showed that
Plaintiff's previous work experience was a sheltered work
environment and that the ALJ's assessment of
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) was not based on substantial evidence.
The Court remanded for reformulation of the RFC in light of
the new evidence.
received another administrative hearing, which occurred on
November 22, 2016. On December 30, 2016, the second ALJ
issued a decision that considered the new evidence but
concluded that the evidence still did not show that
Plaintiff's previous relevant work was sheltered and did
not affect the underlying RFC or disability determination.
The ALJ adopted the 2013 findings in their entirety and
concluded that Plaintiff was “not disabled.”
Plaintiff subsequently filed this claim for review of the
second ALJ's decision, which is the final decision of the
The Sequential Analysis
claimant is disabled if he or she is unable 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). “Social 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 Soc. Sec.
Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011); see
also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 (DIB), 416.920
(SSI); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987).
Each step is potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The five-step sequential
process asks the following series of questions:
1. Is the claimant performing “substantial gainful
activity?” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i),
416.920(a)(4)(i). This activity is work involving significant
mental or physical duties done or intended to be done for pay
or profit. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1510, 416.910. If the
claimant is performing such work, she is not disabled within
the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§