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Nathan H. v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

July 10, 2018

NATHAN H.[1], Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          BRUCE W. BREWER Law Offices of Bruce W. Brewer, PC Attorney for Plaintiff

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney

          RENATA GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney District of Oregon

          ERIN F. HIGHLAND Special Assistant United States Attorney Office of the General Counsel Of Attorneys for Defendant

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOHN V. ACOSTA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Nathan H. ("Plaintiff) seeks judicial review of the final decision by the Social Security Commissioner ("Commissioner") denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title 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). Based on a careful review of the record, the Commissioner's decision should be AFFIRMED.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed for SSI on January 17, 2013, alleging disability as of October 31, 2011, due to a cognitive disorder, bicuspid aortic valve, and depression. Tr. 172. His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. A hearing was held on February 9, 2015, before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"); Plaintiff was represented by a non-attorney representative and testified, as did a vocational expert ("VE"). Tr. 35-61. On June 23, 2015, ALJ Vadim Mozyrsky issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 10-28. Plaintiff requested timely review of the ALJ's decision and, after the Appeals Council denied his request for review, filed a complaint in this Court. Tr. 1-3.

         Factual Background

         Born in 1991, Plaintiff was 20 years old on his alleged disability onset date. Tr. 24. As the result of many missed classes due to a hospitalization, Plaintiff attended special education classes after his junior year of high school. Tr. 173. Plaintiff graduated from high school and took community college classes. Tr. 49-50. He briefly helped at a dairy farm and dog kennel, but has "minimal work experience." Tr. 245.

         Standard of Review

         The 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).

         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).

         The 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. § 416.920(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled.

         At step 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. § 4l6.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant does not have a severe impairment, he is not disabled.

         At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's impairments, either singly or in combination, meet or equal "one of a number 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. ยง 4l6.920(a)(4)(iii). If so, the claimant is ...


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