United States District Court, D. Oregon
v. KRISTE ANDREA CLAUSSEN, Plaintiff, NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
AIKEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Kriste Andrea Claussen 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"). For the reasons set forth below,
the Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded for
September 2011, plaintiff applied for DIB. She alleged
disability beginning September 16, 2011, due to disc
protrusion and degeneration, foraminal stenosis, shoulder
impingement, arthritis, musculoskeletal pain, atrial
fibrillation, sleep apnea, anxiety, depression, and irritable
bowel syndrome. Plaintiffs application was denied initially
and upon reconsideration. On September 17, 2013, plaintiff
appeared at a hearing before an ALJ. On October 13, 2013, the
ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. On
March 20, 2015, the Appeals Council remanded for further
proceedings. The issue was that plaintiffs last insured date
had been calculated improperly and so the ALJ's decision
did not address the entire purported disability period. On
October 26, 2015, plaintiff appeared at a second hearing for
the ALJ. On January 8, 2016, the ALJ issued a second
decision, again finding plaintiff not disabled. After the
Appeals Council denied review, plaintiff filed a complaint in
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." Edliind
v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).
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).
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). 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.l520(a)(4)(i), (b). At step two, the ALJ found plaintiff
had the following severe impairments: "status post left
shoulder rotator cuff surgery; cervical degenerative disc
disease; a history of fibromyalgia; right hand pain secondary
to probable osteoarthritis; borderline obesity; and a history
of anxiety with occasional panic attacks." Tr. 21; 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.l520(a)(4)(ii), (c).
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. 22; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.l520(a)(4)(iii), (d). The ALJ found plaintiff retained
the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to
perform a reduced range of light work with the following
additional limitations. She is further limited to no more
than occasional crawling and climbing of ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds. She is also limited to no more than occasional
overhead reaching bilaterally. She is limited to no more than
occasional pushing and pulling with her left upper extremity.
She is limited to no more than frequent handling, grasping,
fingering, and feeling with her right hand. She is also
limited to simple, repetitive, routine tasks requiring no
more than occasional interaction with co-workers and the
Tr. 24; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e).
four, the ALJ concluded plaintiff could not perform any of
her past relevant work as a waitress or customer service
representative because "the demands of [that] work
exceed either the lifting and carrying restrictions or the
simple work requirement contained in the [RFC]." Tr. 31;
20 C.F.R. §§ 4O4.l52O(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 shipping-and-receiving weigher, counter clerk, and
usher/public attendant. 20 ...