United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
ERIC N. , Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Yim You United States Magistrate Judge
Eric N. seeks judicial review of the final decision by the
Social Security Commissioner (“Commissioner”)
denying his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act (“SSA”). This court has jurisdiction
to review the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). All parties have consented to allow a
Magistrate Judge to enter final orders and judgment in this
case in accordance with FRCP 73 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
applied for DIB and SSI on September 27, 2011. Tr. 167. He
alleged a disability onset date of September 27, 2011.
Id. Plaintiff's applications were denied
initially and on reconsideration. Id. Plaintiff
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), which took place on October 8, 2013,
before ALJ Paul Robeck. Id. On October 25, 2013, ALJ
Robeck issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. Tr.
167-77. Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council,
which granted his request and remanded the case. Tr. 17. On
November 13, 2015, plaintiff appeared at another
administrative hearing before ALJ Robeck. Plaintiff
testified, as did a vocational expert (“VE”) and
medical expert, Tracy Gordy, M.D. Tr. 55. On January 5, 2016,
ALJ Robeck issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled,
and the Appeals Council subsequently denied review. Tr. 1,
18-30. Plaintiff then filed a complaint in this court.
1969, plaintiff was 42 years old on the alleged disability
onset date. Tr. 18. Plaintiff alleges disability due to high
blood pressure and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(“PTSD”). Tr. 440. Plaintiff has previously
worked as a photo journalist. Tr. 440. He also obtained a
truck-driving license and completed one year of college. Tr.
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) (citation and internal
quotations omitted). The court must weigh “both the
evidence that supports and detracts from the
[Commissioner's] conclusions.” Martinez v. Heckler,
807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). Variable interpretations
of the evidence are insignificant if the Commissioner's
interpretation is rational. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676,
679 (9th Cir. 2005).
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).
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. §§
404.1502 and 404.920. First, the Commissioner considers
whether a claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful
activity.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b) and 416.920(b). If so, the claimant
is not disabled.
two, the Commissioner evaluates 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) and 416.920(c). If the claimant does
not have a severe impairment, he is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's
impairments, either singly or in combination, meet or equal
“one of a No. of listed impairments that the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at
140-41; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d) and 416.920(d). If
so, the claimant is presumptively disabled; if not, the
Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner resolves whether the claimant can
still perform “past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(f) and 404.920(f). If the claimant can
work, he is not disabled; if he cannot ...