United States District Court, D. Oregon
A. RUSSO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
brings this proceeding to obtain judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision denying plaintiff's
application for disability insurance benefits.
asserts disability beginning May 31, 2013 due to:
post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, bipolar disorder, sleep apnea, high blood pressure,
knee pain, shoulder pain, and hip pain. Tr. 175, 179.
hearing, an administrative law judge (ALJ) determined
plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff asserts the ALJ erred
in relying on vocational expert (VE) testimony without
addressing plaintiff's post-hearing objections to the
found plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform light exertion work with certain limitations
including only occasional contact with the public, coworkers,
and supervisors. Tr. 38. The ALJ asked a VE if an individual
of plaintiff's age, education, experience, and RFC could
perform jobs existing in the national economy. Tr. 43, 73.
Based upon the VE's testimony, the ALJ determined that
plaintiff could perform the jobs of "Assembler, small
products;" "Inspector, electric equipment;"
and "Packager." Tr. 43, 73-74. The VE specifically
referred to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) in
expressing her opinion. Tr. 73-74.
the hearing, but before the ALJ reached a decision,
plaintiff's counsel submitted a post-hearing memorandum
and objections to the VE's testimony. Tr. 242-66. Among
the objections was the argument that current labor market
research and sources of job information dictate the
identified jobs require more than superficial interaction
with co-workers and supervisors. Tr. 246. Plaintiff offered
the expert opinion of Paula Santagati that a person limited
to only occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors
would be unable to successfully transition from the training
and probationary period of the identified jobs. Tr. 247, 265.
Plaintiff also argued the Department of Labor's current
tool for assessing occupations is through O*NET given that
the DOT has not been updated in decades. Tr. 244-45;
see Tr. 262-63. Plaintiff further argued that under
the O*NET, the identified jobs no longer appear to be
ALJ's decision, she overruled the objections stating:
The VE clearly explained that the jobs cited were SVP 2
unskilled jobs and that her testimony was consistent with the
I accept the VE testimony as to jobs performable with
occasional contact with coworkers and supervisors, as well as
the general public pursuant to SSR 00-4p. I further note that
the representative failed to cross-examine the VE on this
issue despite being given the opportunity to do so at the
In sum, I find the VE testimony reliable, based on
substantial evidence, and supportive of a decision based on a
preponderance of the evidence. All objections are hereby
overruled, and a supplemental hearing is unnecessary as the
representative was offered an opportunity to question the VE
as to these inconsistencies at the hearing.
00-04p provides that the Social Security Administration
primarily relies on the DOT for information about work
requirements and that evidence provided by VEs should be
consistent with the DOT. When there is a conflict between the
VE and the DOT, an ALJ must elicit reasonable explanation for
the conflict before relying on the VE to support a decision
about whether a clamant is disabled. See
case, the VE who testified at the hearing relied on the DOT
and thus her testimony did not conflict with it.
Plaintiff's objection was based on the assertion that the
DOT is outdated and provided his explanation, though another
VE, as to why the conflict should be resolved against the DOT
in favor of the O*NET. The ALJ accepted the ...