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Ray F. v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

September 4, 2018

HARRY RAY F., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          TIM D. WILBORN Attorney for Plaintiff.

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney, RENATA GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney.

          MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel.

          LISA GOLDOFTAS Social Security Administration Office of the General Counsel Attorneys for Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Harry Ray F. seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Titles XVI and II of the Social Security Act.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's decision and REMANDS this matter pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for the immediate calculation and award of benefits.

         ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed his applications for SSI and DIB on December 30, 2011. Tr. 300-09.[2] Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of December 15, 2011. His applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on November 18, 2013. Tr. 61-98. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified at the hearing. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney.

         On March 28, 2014, an ALJ issued an opinion in which he found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 124-30.

         On October 23, 2015, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision. The Appeals Council noted Plaintiff's “Residual Functional Capacity [RFC] is not consistent with light work activity. Limiting [Plaintiff] to walking only two hours out of an eight-hour workday is not consistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) description of light work, but is more of a semblance of sedentary work.” Tr. 137. The Appeals Council also noted the ALJ's decision contained “an apparent contradiction requiring resolution . . . as to the walking and standing required in the DOT for electrical assembly and small products assembly positions and what the VE indicated such hypothetical person could perform.” Tr. 138. Finally, the Appeals Council noted apparent contradictions between the jobs of small-products assembler and eyeglass polisher and the “VE's testimony related to . . . light exertional requirement[s].” Tr. 138. Accordingly, the Appeals Council remanded the matter to a different ALJ to “give further consideration to [Plaintiff's] maximum [RFC], ” to obtain evidence from a medical expert “to clarify the nature and severity of [Plaintiff's] impairments, ” and to “obtain supplemental evidence from a [VE].” Tr. 139.

         On August 19, 2016, an ALJ held a hearing on remand. Tr. 35-60. At the hearing Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. Plaintiff and a VE testified. At the hearing Plaintiff amended his onset date to October 19, 2013. Tr. 38. On November 3, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision on remand in which he found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 18-28. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.984(d), that decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on June 20, 2017, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-5. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on April 29, 1964. Tr. 300. Plaintiff was 49 years old at the time of the first hearing and 51 years old at the time of the hearing on remand. Plaintiff has a tenth-grade education. Tr. 63. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as an industrial maintenance mechanic and conveyor mechanic. Tr. 25.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to diabetes and amputation of his right leg below the knee. Tr. 21.

         Except when noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. After carefully reviewing the medical records, this Court adopts the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. See Tr. 23-25.

         STANDARDS

         The initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9thCir. 2012). To meet this burden, a claimant must demonstrate his inability "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). The ALJ must develop the record when there is ambiguous evidence or when the record is inadequate to allow for proper evaluation of the evidence. McLeod v. Astrue, 640 F.3d 881, 885 (9th Cir. 2011)(quoting Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459-60 (9th Cir. 2001)).

         The district 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 as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See also Brewes v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is “relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Molina, 674 F.3d. at 1110-11 (quoting Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 690 (9th Cir. 2009)). "It is more than a mere scintilla [of evidence] but less than a preponderance." Id. (citing Valentine, 574 F.3d at 690).

         The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in the medical evidence, and resolving ambiguities. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009). The court must weigh all of the evidence whether it supports or detracts from the Commissioner's decision. Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008). Even when the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must uphold the Commissioner's findings if they are supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record. Ludwig v. Astrue, 681 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2012). The court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1070 (9th Cir. 2006).

         DISABILITY ...


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