United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION & ORDER
MICHAEL MCSHANE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Patricia T. seeks judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) finding Plaintiff no longer
disabled. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of
the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
January 2, 2009, Plaintiff was found to be disabled as of
January 11, 2008. Tr. 18. On February 11, 2013, the
Commissioner determined that Plaintiff was no longer disabled
as of February 1, 2013. Id. The determination was
upheld upon reconsideration and Plaintiff sought a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
Id. On December 10, 2015, Plaintiff appeared at a
video conference hearing before an ALJ. Id.
January 29, 2016, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was no
longer disabled as of February 1, 2013. Tr. 30. The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, Tr. 1,
making the ALJ's determination the final decision of the
Commissioner. This appeal followed.
governing the handling of social security benefit
determinations identify two separate standards: one to be
employed in making an initial disability determination, 20
C.F.R. § 416.920, and the second for assessing whether a
previously determined disability continues, 20 C.F.R. §
416.994(b)(5)(i-vii). Khampunbuan v. Astrue, 333
Fed.Appx. 217, 218 (9th Cir. 2009). In assessing whether a
disability continues, the Commissioner follows a seven-step
one, the Commissioner must determine if the individual has an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals
a listed impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.994(b)(5)(i). If
the claimant has such an impairment, her disability
two, the Commissioner must determine whether medical
improvement has occurred. 20 C.F.R. § 416.994(b)(5)(ii).
If there has been medical improvement, the analysis proceeds
to the third step; if not, the analysis skips to the fourth
there has been medical improvement, the third step requires
the Commissioner to determine whether medical improvement is
related to the ability to work. 20 C.F.R. §
416.994(b)(5)(iii). This involves assessing whether the
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) has increased. Id. If the
medical improvement is not related to the ability to do work,
the analysis proceeds to step four; if it is related to the
ability to do work, it proceeds to step five. Id.
there is no medical improvement, or the improvement is not
related to the claimant's ability to do work, the fourth
step requires the Commissioner to determine if an exception
applies. 20 C.F.R. § 416.994(b)(5)(iv). Under the first
group of exceptions, the Commissioner can find the claimant
no longer disabled even though she has not medically improved
if she is able to engage in substantial gainful activity. 20
C.F.R. § 416.994(b)(3). If one of those exceptions
applies, the analysis proceeds to step five. 20 C.F.R. §
416.994(b)(5)(iv). Under the second group of exceptions, in
certain situations not applicable here, the Commissioner can
find a recipient no longer disabled without finding medical
improvement or an ability to engage in substantial gainful
activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.994(b)(4). If none of the
exceptions apply, the recipient continues to be disabled. 20
C.F.R. § 416.994(b)(5)(iv).
fifth step requires the Commissioner to determine whether all
the recipient's current impairments in combination are
“severe, ” which means they significantly limit
the claimant's ability to do basic work activities. 20
C.F.R. § 416.994(b)(5)(v). If not, the claimant is no
longer disabled. Id.
claimant's current impairments are severe, the sixth step
requires the Commissioner to determine whether the claimant
has a sufficient RFC, “based on all [her] current
impairments, ” to perform any past relevant work. 20
C.F.R. § 416.994(b)(5)(vi). If so, she is no longer
claimant is unable to do her past work, the seventh step
requires the Commissioner to determine, using the
claimant's RFC, whether the claimant can perform any
other substantial gainful work. 20 C.F.R. §
416.994(b)(5)(vii). If not, the claimant continues to be
noted the most recent favorable medical decision finding
Plaintiff disabled, dated January 2, 2009, which served as
the “comparison point decision.”
(“CPD”). Tr. 19. At the time of the CPD,
Plaintiff had the following medically determinable
impairment: third ventricular colloid cyst with obstructive
hydrocephalus. Id. This resulted in an RFC
restricting Plaintiff to occasional and frequent lifting and
carrying of less than ten pounds; standing or walking for
less than two hours in an eight hour workday; sitting for six
hours in an eight hour workday; never climbing ramps, stairs,
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; never balancing, stooping,
kneeling, crouching, or crawling; avoiding all exposures to
extreme cold, extreme heat, or hazards; avoiding even
moderate exposure to noise; and avoiding concentrated
exposure to wetness or humidity. Tr. 19-20.
underwent a series of surgeries to remove the colloidal cyst
and install a ventriculoperitoneal shunt. Tr. 20. The ALJ
determined that, as of February 1, 2013, Plaintiff had the
following current medically determinable impairments:
residual effects of colloidal cyst and obstructive
hydrocephalus (status post-excision and subsequent
ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement); cognitive disorder;
depressive disorder; and anxiety disorder. Id.
determined that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work
with the following additional restrictions: Plaintiff is
limited to occasional climbing of ramps or stairs; no
climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasional
balancing; frequent stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling; Plaintiff must avoid moderate exposure to
operational control of moving machinery, unprotected heights,
and hazardous machinery; Plaintiff is limited to work that is
simple, routine, and repetitive; and no more than occasional
interaction with the general public or coworkers. Tr. 23.
then undertook the sequential analysis. At step one, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or
equal a listed impairment. Tr. 20. At step two, the ALJ
determined that medical improvement had occurred as of
February 1, 2013, and that the impairment established in the
CPD was no longer present. Tr. 22. At step three, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff's medical improvement was
related to Plaintiff's ability to work. Id.
Consequently, the ALJ skipped step four and proceeded to step
five, determining that Plaintiff has continued to have a
severe impairment or combination of impairments. Tr. 22-23.
determined at step six that Plaintiff did not have the RFC to
perform her past relevant work. Tr. 28-29. At step seven, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff was able to perform other
substantial gainful work as a mailroom sorter, light package
router, or office helper. Tr. 29-30. Accordingly, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff's disability ended on February
1, 2013. Tr. 30.
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
the decision is based on proper legal standards and the legal
findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r, 359
F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). Substantial evidence
“means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In reviewing
the Commissioner's alleged errors, this court must weigh
“both the evidence that supports and detracts from the
[Commissioner's] conclusion.” Martinez v.
Heckler, 807 F.2d ...