United States District Court, D. Oregon
JAMIEM. EVANS Evans & Evans, PC Of Attorney for plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney District of Oregon RENATA
GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney
GOLDOFTAS Special Assistant United States Attorney Office of
the General Counsel Of Attorneys for defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
V. ACOSTA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE:
("plaintiff) seeks judicial review of a final decision
by the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner") denying his application for
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"). This court
has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Based on a careful
review of the record, the Commissioner's decision is
reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
applied for SSI on February 5, 2013, alleging disability as
of February 28, 2002, due to traumatic brain injury
("TBI"); migraines; arthritis; shoulder, hip, neck,
and back pain; problems with his knees and feet; throat
problems; and blindness in his right eye. (Tr. 65-66.) His
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
(Tr. 65, 79.) A hearing convened on February 9, 2016, before
an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. 36-64.)
On March 24, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding
plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 15-28.) Plaintiff timely
requested review of the ALJ's decision and, after the
Appeals Council denied review, the ALJ's decision became
the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3.) Plaintiff
subsequently filed a complaint in this court.
April 1971, plaintiff was 30 years old on the alleged
disability onset date and 44 years old on the hearing date.
(Tr. 66.) Plaintiff attended school through the tenth grade.
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). "Where
the evidence as a whole can support either a grant or a
denial, [a court] may not substitute [its] judgment for the
ALJ's." Massachi v. Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149,
1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).
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, 42 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. 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. §
two, the Commissioner resolves 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). If not, the claimant is not
disabled. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
three, the Commissioner evaluates whether the claimant's
impairment meets or equals "one of a number of listed
impairments that the Secretary acknowledges are so severe as
to preclude substantial gainful activity." M; 20 C.F.R.
§404.1520(d). If so, the claimant is presumed disabled;
if not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant still
can perform "past relevant work." Id.; 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). If the claimant can work, she is
not disabled; if she cannot perform past relevant work, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner. Yuckert, 482 U.S.
five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can
perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
national or local economy. Id. at 142; 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(g). If the Commissioner meets this burden,
the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1566.
one, the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the application date. (Tr. 17.) At
step two, the ALJ found plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease; hip osteoarthritis;
loss of visual acuity in the right eye; and borderline
intellectual functioning ("BIF"). Id.
three, the ALJ found plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one
of a number of impairments that are so severe ...