United States District Court, D. Oregon
Merrill Schneider SCHNEIDER KERR & ROBICHAUX Attorney for
J. Williams UNITED STATES ATTORNEY District of Oregon
Gowie ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY Jordan D. Goddard
SPECIAL ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY Office of the
General Counsel Attorney for Defendant
OPINION & ORDER
A. HERNANDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Nicholas S. brings this action seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision to deny supplemental
security income (SSI). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. §
1383(c)(3)). I affirm the Commissioner's decision.
applied for SSI on October 24, 2013, initially alleging an
onset date of January 20, 2002, but later amending that date
to September 26, 2013. Tr. 165-70, 20. His application was
denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 77-90, 108-11
(Initial); 91-103, 113-15 (Recon.). On April 7, 2016,
Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 43-76. On May 23, 2016,
the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 17-42. The Appeals
Council denied review. Tr. 1-5.
alleges disability based on obesity, knee problems, back
pain, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, leg and feet pain
and numbness, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, hypertension,
and low heart rate. Tr. 190. At the time of the hearing, he
was thirty-six years old. Tr. 50. He did not complete high
school and has no past relevant work experience. Tr. 368.
claimant is disabled if 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. §§
claims are evaluated according to a five-step procedure.
See Valentine v. Comm'r, 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th
Cir. 2009) (in social security cases, agency uses five-step
procedure to determine disability). The claimant bears the
ultimate burden of proving disability. Id.
first step, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is
engaged in "substantial gainful activity." If so,
the claimant is not disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
416.920(b). In step two, the Commissioner determines 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), 416.920(c). If
not, the claimant is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether plaintiff's
impairments, 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 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if
not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant,
despite any impairment(s), has the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform "past relevant work." 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If the claimant
can perform past relevant work, the claimant is not disabled.
If the claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner. In step five, the Commissioner
must establish that the claimant can perform other work.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the
Commissioner meets his burden and proves that the claimant is
able to perform other work which exists in the national
economy, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his September 26, 2013
application date. Tr. 22. Next, at step two, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff has severe impairments of obesity,
affective disorder, anxiety disorder, intellectual
disability, and autism spectrum disorder. Id.
However, at step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or equal, either singly or in
combination, a listed impairment. Tr. 24-27.
four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b), except
he can frequently climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel, and
crouch. Tr. 28. He can occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds, and crawl. Id. He is limited to
performing simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, and to
simple work-related decisions. Id. He is also
limited to occasional interaction with supervisors and
coworkers and no contact with the public. Id.
Because Plaintiff has no past relevant work, the ALJ went
immediately to step five. Tr. 36. With this RFC, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff is able to perform jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the economy such as agricultural
produce sorter, small products assembler, and electronics
worker. Tr. 37. Thus, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is
not disabled. Id.
may set aside the Commissioner's denial of benefits only
when the Commissioner's findings are based on legal error
or are not supported by substantial evidence in the record as
a whole. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th
Cir. 2009). "Substantial evidence means 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." Id. (internal quotation
marks omitted). The court considers the record as a whole,
including both the evidence that supports and detracts from
the Commissioner's decision. Id.;
Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th
Cir. 2007). "Where the evidence is susceptible to more
than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision must
be affirmed." Vasquez, 572 F.3d at 591
(internal quotation marks and brackets omitted); see also
Massachi v. Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007)
("Where the evidence as a whole can support either a
grant or a denial, [the court] may not substitute [its]
judgment for the ALJ's") (internal quotation marks
argues that the ALJ erred by improperly finding his
subjective testimony not credible, by improperly rejecting
the opinion of an examining psychologist, and by improperly