United States District Court, D. Oregon
LORAINE M. M.d.H.,  Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Richard F. McGinty, McGinty & Belcher, P.O. Box 12806,
Salem, OR 97301. Of Attorneys for Plaintiff.
J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Renata Gowie,
Assistant United States Attorney, United States
Attorney's Office, Kathryn A. Miller, Special Assistant
United States Attorney, Office of General Counsel, Social
Security Administration, Of Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL H. SIMON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
M.d.H. (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act (the “Act”). For the following reasons, the
Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
it is based on the proper legal standards and the findings
are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); see also Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501
(9th Cir. 1989). “Substantial evidence” means
“more than a mere scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Bray v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995)). It means “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quoting Andrews, 53
F.3d at 1039).
the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, the Commissioner's conclusion must be
upheld. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th
Cir. 2005). Variable interpretations of the evidence are
insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is a
rational reading of the record, and this Court may not
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. See
Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190,
1193, 1196 (9th Cir. 2004). “[A] reviewing court must
consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm
simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting
evidence.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630
(9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Robbins v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (quotation
marks omitted)). A reviewing court, however, may not affirm
the Commissioner on a ground upon which the Commissioner did
not rely. Id.; see also Bray, 554 F.3d at
filed an application for SSI on January 16, 2013, originally
alleging she became disabled on March 1, 2002. AR
Plaintiff later amended her alleged disability onset date to
October 24, 2012. AR 55. Born in 1973, Plaintiff was 39 years
old at the alleged disability onset date and 42 years old at
the time of her hearing. AR 244. She attended high school
until the tenth grade. AR 276. Plaintiff had past relevant
work experience as a fast food worker, ice cream server,
office specialist, cannery worker, and pizza delivery driver.
AR 40, 317. She alleged disability due to spinal and back
pain, moodiness and fatigue from Graves' disease,
Hepatitis C, anger outbursts and meltdowns due to
post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), anemia,
high blood pressure, increased heartrate from
“premature ventricular contraction, ” high
cholesterol, and foot numbness. AR 305, 378.
Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and
upon reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). AR
97, 122, 181. On June 19, 2015, a hearing was held before ALJ
Joanne Dantonio, at which Plaintiff, her counsel, and Nancy
Bloom, a vocational expert (“VE”), were present.
AR 52-78. In a decision dated August 18, 2015, the ALJ found
Plaintiff not disabled. AR 19-42. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on November 16, 2016,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. AR 1-4; see also 20 C.F.R. §
422.210(a). Plaintiff seeks judicial review of that decision.
This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
The Sequential Analysis
claimant is disabled if he or she is 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. §
423(d)(1)(A). “Social Security Regulations set out a
five-step sequential process for determining whether an
applicant is disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act.” Keyser v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011); see
also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 (DIB), 416.920
(SSI); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987).
Each step is potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The five-step sequential
process asks the following series of questions:
1. Is the claimant performing “substantial gainful
activity?” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i),
416.920(a)(4)(i). This activity is work involving significant
mental or physical duties done or intended to be done for pay
or profit. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1510, 416.910. If the
claimant is performing such work, she is not disabled within
the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§