United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael McShane United States District Judge.
Bobbi Joanne Clayton (“Clayton”) brings this
action for judicial review of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying
her application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). This court has jurisdiction under 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Because the Commissioner's decision
is free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence,
the decision is AFFIRMED.
applied for benefits on February 14, 2014 and alleged
disability onset as of May 2, 2009. Tr. 71. Clayton's
date last insured (“DLI”) was March 31, 2012. Tr.
199. Clayton alleged disability due to post-traumatic stress
disorder (“PTSD”), chronic pain and loss of
strength in her left shoulder, chronic pain in her left hip,
and obesity. Tr. 205.
claim was heard by Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Linda Tommasson on April 9, 2016. Tr. 96,
150. The ALJ denied Clayton's claim on May 31, 2016. Tr.
104. Clayton subsequently filed this appeal.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing court shall affirm the decision of the Commissioner
if her decision is based on proper legal standards and the
legal findings are supported by substantial evidence in the
record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r
Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004).
“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.'” Hill v. Astrue,
698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Sandgathe v.
Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997)). To determine
whether substantial evidence exists, the district court must
review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both
the evidence that supports and detracts from the ALJ's
decision. Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323, 326 (9th
Social Security Administration utilizes a five-step
sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 & 416.920
(2012). The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant
to meet the first four steps. If the claimant satisfies that
burden with respect to the first four steps, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner for step five. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. At step five, the Commissioner must show that the
claimant is capable of making an adjustment to other work
after considering the claimant's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”), age, education, and work
experience. Id. If the Commissioner fails to meet
this burden, then the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v); 416.920(a)(4)(v). If,
however, the Commissioner proves that the claimant is able to
perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
national economy, then the claimant is not disabled.
Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th
one, the ALJ determined that Clayton engaged in substantial
gainful activity for one month during the pertinent time
frame. Tr. 98. At step two, the ALJ found that Clayton had
severe impairments of a status post gunshot wound to her left
shoulder and a status post gunshot wound to her left hip
through her DLI. Tr. 99. At step three, the ALJ found that
Clayton's impairments did not satisfy any of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1525, App. 1. Tr. 99.
then determined Clayton's RFC. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1545; 404.1569(a). Clayton's RFC allowed her to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b), except that Clayton would not be able to climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffold and could not frequently reach
for things with her left arm. Tr. 100. At step four, the ALJ
held that Clayton was capable of resuming past work as a
customer service representative, policyholder information
clerk, insurance producer, telemarketer, insurance processor,
and administrative clerk. Tr. 103. Despite finding that
Clayton was capable of past work, the ALJ continued on to
step five and further determined that other jobs existed in
the national economy that Clayton could have performed. Tr.
104. These occupations were file clerk, general office clerk,
and food assembler. Tr. 104. Consequently, the ALJ decided
that Clayton was not disabled under the Social Security Act
through her DLI. Tr. 104-05.
argues that the ALJ erred because she (1) failed to develop
the medical record, (2) improperly weighed the treating
physician's testimony, (3) failed to properly consider
Clayton's symptom testimony, and (4) improperly weighed
the testimony from lay witnesses. For the reasons discussed
below, the ALJ's decision is AFFIRMED.
Failure to Develop the Medical Record
argues that it was legal error to not call a medical expert
to help determine her onset date for PTSD. I disagree.
Clayton's onset date was crucial in finding whether
Clayton was entitled to disability benefits. During her
hearing with the ALJ, counsel for Clayton requested that the
ALJ call a medical advisor to help determine an onset date.
Tr. 67. The ALJ denied the request because she believed that
the unique nature of PTSD ...