United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
AIKEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Cindy L. ("plaintiff) brings this action pursuant to the
Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner").
The Commissioner denied plaintiffs application for Disability
Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). For the reasons set
forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
November 2012, plaintiff applied for DIB. She alleged
disability beginning November 30, 2010, due to Crohn's
disease, as well as pain and swelling in her hands, feet, and
right elbow. Plaintiffs DIB application was denied initially
and upon reconsideration. On April 13, 2015, plaintiff
appeared at a hearing before an ALJ and testified. A
vocational expert also testified. Plaintiff was represented
by a non-attorney representative. In a written decision
issued April 24, 2015, the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled.
After the Appeals Council denied review, plaintiff filed a
complaint in this Court.
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
it is based upon proper legal standards and the findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Berry v. Astrue, 622 F.3d 1228, 1231
(9th Cir. 2010). "Substantial evidence is more than a
mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Gutierrez v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 740 F.3d 519, 522 (9th Cir.
2014) (citation and quotation marks omitted). The court must
weigh "both the evidence that supports and the evidence
that detracts from the ALJ's conclusion." Mayes
v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th Cir. 2001). If the
evidence is subject to more than one interpretation but the
Commissioner's decision is rational, the Commissioner
must be affirmed, because "the court may not substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner." Edhmd v.
Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).
initial burden of proof rests upon plaintiff to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, plaintiff 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. §
404.1520(a)(4). At step one, the ALJ found plaintiff had not
engaged in "substantial gainful activity" since the
alleged disability onset date of November 30, 2010. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), (b). At step two, the ALJ
found plaintiff had the following severe impairments as of
the alleged onset Dated: Crohn's disease and right elbow
epicondylitis. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii),
three, the ALJ determined that plaintiffs impairments,
whether considered singly or in combination, did not meet or
equal "one of the listed impairments" that the
Commissioner acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§
then assessed plaintiffs residual functional capacity
("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). The ALJ
found plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except
she can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; is limited
to occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; is limited to
frequent stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling; is
limited to frequent reaching and handling with the dominant
right upper extremity; and must have access to a bathroom at
Tr. 14. At step four, the ALJ concluded plaintiff could not
perform any of her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f). At step five, however, the ALJ found
that plaintiff could perform work existing in the national
economy; specifically, plaintiff could work as an assembler
or packager/sorter. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),