United States District Court, D. Oregon
Merrill Schneider, Schneider, Attorneys for Plaintiff.
J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Renata Gowie, Erin
F. Highland, Special Assistant United States Attorney
Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael H. Simon, United States District Judge.
Phuoc Danh seeks judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's
application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) pursuant to the Social Security Act.
Because the Commissioner's decision is based on the
proper legal standards and the findings are supported by
substantial evidence, the decision is AFFIRMED.
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
was born in April 1960. AR 62. He was 49 years old as of the
alleged disability onset date, and turned 55 during the
adjudication period. Plaintiff filed his first application
for DIB and SSI on February 16, 2011, alleging disability
beginning on July 20, 2009. AR 84. In a written opinion dated
March 1, 2013, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Robinson denied the Plaintiff's first application after
finding that Plaintiff was not disabled under the meaning of
the SSA. AR 81-97. Plaintiff did not appeal this decision so
it became the final decision of the Commissioner.
filed a second application for DIB and SSI on June 6, 2013,
re-alleging disability beginning July 20, 2009. AR 206, 210.
Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from right-hand arthritis,
high blood pressure, hepatitis C, gastroesophageal reflux
disease, post-right wrist injury, bursitis in both shoulders,
and post-right elbow dislocation. AR 231. He also alleges
that he is unable to speak and understand English. AR 230.
Plaintiff contends that his illiteracy, age, and physical
limitations render him disabled within the meaning of the
Social Security Act. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's
second application initially on August 14, 2013, and on
reconsideration on January 9, 2014. AR 152, 157, 163, 166.
February 20, 2014, Plaintiff requested a hearing to review
the denial of DIB and SSI. AR 169. A hearing was held before
ALJ Paul Robeck on June 23, 2015. AR 42. On July 31, 2015,
the ALJ issued an opinion finding Plaintiff not disabled. AR
37. On February 16, 2017, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. AR 1.
Plaintiff seeks review of that decision.
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, ...