United States District Court, D. Oregon
L. Gabin SARA L. GABIN, P.C., ATTORNEY AT LAW Attorney for
J. Williams UNITED STATES ATTORNEY Renata Gowie ASSISTANT
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY U.S. Attorney's Office, District
L. Martin SPECIAL ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY Office of
the General Counsel Social Security Administration Attorneys
OPINION & ORDER
A. HERNÁNDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Michael S. brings this action seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision to deny disability
insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income
(SSI) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act.
This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3)). For the
reasons that follow, the Court affirms the Commissioner's
applied for DIB and SSI on January 10, 2014, alleging an
onset date of October 17, 2012. Tr. 201-11. His application
was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 90-131,
March 3, 2016, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 35-89.
On June 21, 2016, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled from
October 17, 2012 through the date of her decision. Tr. 17-34.
The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1-5.
alleges disability based on central serous retinopathy, sleep
apnea, right knee and right elbow problems, and chronic
insomnia. Tr. 90. Plaintiff has a host of other health
problems, including: hearing loss, obesity, diabetes, and
lumbar disc disease. Pl.'s Br. 2. At the hearing,
Plaintiff also alleged he had depression and post-traumatic
stress disorder. Tr. 23. Plaintiff was fifty-seven years old
at the time of the hearing and was fifty-four years old at
the time of his alleged onset date. Id. He has a GED
along with two welding certifications. Tr. 42- 43. His past
relevant work experience includes welder supervisor, welder
assembler, combination welder, truck assembler, overhead
crane operator, and forklift operator. Tr. 29, 67.
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, e.g., Valentine v. Comm'r, 574 F.3d 685,
689 (9th Cir. 2009). 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). At 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 the claimant'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. At 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.
§§ 404.1566, 416.966.
one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
Tr. 22. Next, at step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has
the following severe impairments: carpal tunnel syndrome of
the right hand, hearing loss, and degenerative disc disease.
Id. However, at step three, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or medically equal
the severity of any listed impairment. Tr. 23-24. At step
four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20
C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) and § 416.967(b) with
exceptions, including postural, manipulative, and
environmental limitations. Tr. 24. The ALJ found Plaintiff
can, in an environment with a noise level not exceeding the
loud level, perform the following: frequently climb ramps or
stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch and climb; occasionally climb
ladders, ropes or scaffolds; and frequently handle and finger
with the right upper extremity. Id. The ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff is able to perform past relevant
work as a welder supervisor, welder assembler, combination
welder, truck assembler, and overhead crane operator. Tr. 28.
In the alternative, the ALJ found at step five that Plaintiff
could perform the occupations of laundry worker, janitor, and
courtesy clerk. Tr. 30. Thus, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff was
not disabled as defined by the Social Security Act.
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 ...