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Rex H. v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

September 18, 2018

REX H.,[1] Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER, Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff, Rex. H., seeks judicial review of the final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“Act”). 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433. This court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). All parties have consented to allow a Magistrate Judge to enter final orders and judgment in this case in accordance with FRCP 73 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). ECF #5. For the reasons below, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.


         In July 2015, plaintiff protectively filed for DIB alleging a disability onset date of July 7, 2015. Tr. 19.[2] He requested a hearing after his application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 76, 90. On July 11, 2016, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Vadim Mozyrsky, wherein plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified, as did a vocational expert (“VE”). Tr. 32-64. At the hearing, plaintiff amended his alleged disability onset date to October 2, 2012. Tr. 19. The ALJ issued a decision on August 10, 2016, finding plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 16-26. After the Appeals Council denied his request for review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this court. Tr. 1-4. The ALJ's decision is therefore the Commissioner's final decision subject to review by this court. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 422.210.


         Born in 1955, plaintiff was 60 years old on the alleged disability onset date, and 61 years old at the time of his administrative hearing. Tr. 146. He completed one year of college. Tr. 168. He had past relevant work experience as a webpage designer. Tr. 26, 169. Plaintiff alleged disability due to depression, bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, degenerative disc disease, bilateral “shoulder problems, ” and Lyme disease. Tr. 167.


         The reviewing 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. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Lewis v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 909, 911 (9th Cir. 2007). This court must weigh the evidence that supports and detracts from the ALJ's conclusion and “‘may not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence.'” Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009-10 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007)). The reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner when the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing the decision. Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Instead, where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld if it is “supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record.” Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted); see also Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d at 1035.


         Disability is the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or 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 engages in a five-step sequential inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act. This sequential analysis is set forth in Social Security Administration (“Agency”) regulations, 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520, in Ninth Circuit case law, Lounsburry v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006) (discussing Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999)), and in the ALJ's decision, Tr. 20-21.

         At step one, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 2, 2012, the alleged onset date of disability. Tr. 21.

         At step two, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: obesity, degenerative disc disease, hypertension, and bilateral shoulder cuff pathology. Id. The ALJ further found plaintiff's sleep apnea, depression, and anxiety were non-severe medically determinable impairments. Id.

         At step three, the ALJ concluded plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled any listed impairment. Tr. 22.

         The ALJ then found plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform less than the full range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), with the following limitations:

He can lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. He can sit 6 hours out of an 8-hour day, stand and walk 6 hours total out of an 8-hour day. He can push and pull as much as he can lift and carry. He is limited to occasional overhead reaching. He can never work at unprotected heights, around moving mechanical parts, or operate a motor vehicle.

Tr. 22.

         The ALJ determined at step four that plaintiff was capable of performing his past relevant work as a web designer. Tr. 26. Accordingly, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not ...

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