United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
NANCY K. LADELY, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
SULLIVAN, United States Magistrate Judge
Nancy K. Ladely brings this action pursuant to the Social
Security Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”). The Commissioner denied
plaintiff Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
under Title II of the Act. 42 U.S.C. § 401 et
seq. For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the
applied for DIB on May 7, 2013, claiming disability beginning
August 22, 2011, later amended to April 1, 2013. Tr. 142-48,
Her claim was denied initially on September 12, 2013, and
upon reconsideration on February 24, 2014. Tr. 61-62, 91-95.
A hearing was held July 2, 2015, in Portland, Oregon, before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Vadim Mozyrsky.
Tr. 37-60. Plaintiff testified, represented by counsel; a
vocational expert (“VE”), Gary Kesky, also
testified. Id. On October 9, 2015, the ALJ issued a
decision finding plaintiff not disabled under the Act and
denying benefits. Tr. 17-30. Plaintiff requested Appeals
Council review, which was denied March 15, 2017. Tr. 1-13.
Plaintiff then sought review before this Court.
1976, plaintiff has a master's degree in biopsychology.
Tr. 44, 142. Plaintiff suffers from migraine headaches and
experiences dizziness, as well as gastritis. Tr. 44-45, 391,
626. Plaintiff suffers from bipolar and somatoform disorders,
and anxiety and depression, and exhibits histrionic and
borderline personality traits. Tr. 319, 331, 386, 553, 695,
Burden of Proof and Evidentiary Requirements
court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is
based on proper legal standards and the findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record. Hammock
v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quotation omitted).
The court must weigh “both the evidence that supports
and detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusion.”
Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir.
1986). “Where the evidence as a whole can support
either a grant or a denial, [the court] may not substitute
[its] judgment for the ALJ's.” Massachi v.
Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation
omitted); see also Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676,
680-81 (9th Cir. 2005) (holding that the court “must
uphold the ALJ's decision where the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation”).
“[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) (quotation
omitted). The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant
to establish disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d
1484, 1486 (9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant
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).
Five-Step Sequential Process
Commissioner has established a five-step process for
determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. First, the Commissioner
determines whether a claimant is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity”; if so, the
claimant is not disabled. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140;
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). At step two,
the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a
“medically severe impairment or combination of
impairments.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). A severe
impairment is one “which significantly limits [the
claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities[.]” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) &
416.920(c). If not, the claimant is not disabled.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141. At step three, the
Commissioner determines whether the impairment meets or
equals “one of a number of listed impairments that the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity.” Id.; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is
conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the analysis
proceeds. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
point, the ALJ must evaluate medical and other evidence to
determine the claimant's “residual functional
capacity” (“RFC”). This is an assessment of
work-related activities that the claimant can perform on a
regular and continuing basis, despite any limitations imposed
by her impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e),
404.1545(b)-(c), 416.920(e), 416.945(b)-(c). At the fourth
step, the ALJ determines whether the claimant can perform
“past relevant work.” Yuckert, 482 U.S.
at 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If
the claimant can perform past relevant work, he is not
disabled; if he cannot, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 146 n.5. At step
five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can
perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy. Id. at 142; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the
Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.
found that plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of
the Act through December 31, 2016. Tr. 19. At step one, the
ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the amended alleged disability onset
date. Id. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff
had the severe impairments of migraine headaches, gastritis,
vertigo, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and
somatization. Id. At step three, the ALJ found that
plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination thereof
that met or medically equaled a listed impairment.
Id. The ALJ found that plaintiff had the RFC to
perform light work, with certain physical limitations,
limited to simple routine and repetitive tasks with simple
work-related decisions, and only incidental contact with the
general public and occasional contact with coworkers. Tr. 21.
In so finding, the ALJ gave “limited weight” to
the opinions of treating psychiatrist Charles Kuttner, M.D.
Tr. 26. At step four, the ALJ found plaintiff unable to
perform past relevant work. Tr. 28. At step five, the ALJ