United States District Court, D. Oregon
S. Coon and Scott A. Sell, Thomas, Coon, Newton, & Frost,
The Thomas Mann Building, 820 SW Second Ave., Suite 200,
Portland, Oregon 97204. Of Attorneys for Plaintiff.
J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Renata Gowie,
Assistant United States Attorney, United States
Attorney's Office, 1000 SW Third Avenue, Suite 600,
Portland, OR 97204; Sarah L. Martin, Special Assistant United
States Attorney, Office of General Counsel, Social Security
Administration, 701 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2900 M/S 221A,
Seattle, WA 98104. Of Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL H. SIMON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
P. (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her
application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). Because the Commissioner's decision
was not based on the proper legal standards and the findings
were not supported by substantial evidence, the decision is
REVERSED and this case REMANDED for further proceedings.
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); Molina v. Astrue, 673 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th
Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion” and is more than a “mere
scintilla” of the evidence but less than a
preponderance. Id. at 1110-11 (quotation omitted).
The Court must uphold the ALJ's findings if they
“are supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the
record[, ]” even if the evidence is susceptible to
multiple rational interpretations. Id. at 1110. The
Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner. Batson v. Comm'r of the Soc. Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (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) (quotation omitted).
filed her application for SSI on June 4, 2013, alleging
disability as of January 1, 2010. AR 70. The claim was denied
initially and upon reconsideration, and Plaintiff timely
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), which was held on August 10, 2015. AR
36-69. After the hearing, ALJ Gordon W. Griggs issued an
adverse decision dated September 24, 2015, finding Plaintiff
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
(“the Act”). AR 13-27. The decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council
denied review. AR 1-3. Plaintiff now seeks review in this
January 1966, Plaintiff was 43 years old on the initial
alleged disability onset date and 49 years old at the time of
the administrative hearing. AR 71. She is a high school
graduate. AR 39-40, 189. Plaintiff alleges disability due to:
spinal disc bulging and lower back pain, posttraumatic stress
disorder (“PTSD”), shoulder pain, chronic
headaches, panic attacks, anxiety, bipolar disorder,
attention deficit disorder (“ADD”), and
depression. AR 188.
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. §
432(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; Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). Each step is
potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). The
five-step sequential process asks the following series of
1. Is the claimant performing “substantial gainful
activity?” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). This
activity is work involving significant mental or physical
duties done or intended to be done for pay or profit. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1510. If the claimant is performing such
work, she is not disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is not
performing substantial gainful activity, the analysis
proceeds to step two.
2. Is the claimant's impairment “severe”
under the Commissioner's regulations? 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). An impairment or combination of
impairments is “severe” if it significantly
limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(a). Unless
expected to result in death, this impairment must have lasted
or be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12
months. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1509. If the claimant does not
have a severe ...