United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Aiken U.S. District Judge
Darlinda S. brings this action pursuant to the Social
Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to
obtain judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner").
The Commissioner denied plaintiffs application for
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). For the
reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is
plaintiffs fourth disability claim. Claims plaintiff filed in
May 2006, February 2007, and October 2010 were all denied by
the Commissioner. In response to plaintiffs October 2010
application, an ALJ issued a written opinion rejecting
plaintiffs claim in April 2013. In June 2014, plaintiff
submitted the SSI application that is the subject of this
action. Plaintiff alleged disability beginning May 30, 2013,
due to kidney cancer, kidney removal, sciatica, left shoulder
impingement syndrome, diabetes, fibromyalgia, hypertension,
high cholesterol, sinus bradycardia, right ventricular
hypertrophy, scoliosis of the lumbar spine, dyspnea upon
exertion, costochondritis, biliary reflux, cervicalgia,
epicondylitis, caipal tunnel syndrome, and right hip
trochanteric bursitis. Her application was denied initially,
and upon reconsideration. On July 30, 2015, plaintiff
appeared at a hearing before an ALJ. At the hearing,
plaintiff testified and was represented by an attorney. A
vocational expert ("VE") also testified. The ALJ
found plaintiff not disabled in a written decision issued
September 21, 2015. After the Appeals Council denied review,
plaintiff filed the present complaint in this Court.
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
it is based upon proper legal standards and the findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Berry v. Astrue, 622 F.3d 1228, 1231
(9th Cir. 2010). "Substantial evidence is 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." Gutierrez v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 740 F, 3d 519, 522 (9th Cir,
2014) (citation and quotation marks omitted). The court must
weigh "both the evidence that supports and the evidence
that detracts from the ALJ's conclusion." Mayes
v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th Cir. 2001). If the
evidence is subject to more than one interpretation but the
Commissioner's decision is rational, the Commissioner
must be affirmed, because "the court may not substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner." Edhmd v.
Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).
initial burden of proof rests upon the plaintiff to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the plaintiff must
demonstrate an "inability to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected ... to
last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months[.]" 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process
for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4); id. § 416.920(a)(4). At step
one, the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in
"substantial gainful activity" since the alleged
disability onset date of May 30, 2013. Tr. 22-23; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), (b); id.
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(i), (b). At step two, the ALJ
found plaintiff had the following severe impairments as of
the alleged onset Dated: "fibromyalgia; caipal tunnel
syndrome; shoulder impingement syndrome; hypeitension;
marijuana dependence; mild degenerative disc disease with
radiculopathy; osteoporosis of the lumber spine; clear cell
adenocarcinoma of the right kidney, status post nephrectomy;
and irritable bowel syndrome." Tr. 23; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(h), (c); id.
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(h), (c). The ALJ considered the
record evidence of gastroesophageal reflux disease, diabetes
mellitus, and hyperlipidemia and concluded they were not
severe impairments because the record did not "document
any resulting functional limitations that would significantly
affect the claimant's ability to perform basic work
activities for a continuous period of at least 12
months." Tr. 23.
three, the ALJ determined plaintiffs impairments, whether
considered singly or in combination, did not meet or equal
"one of the listed impairments" that the
Commissioner acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity. Tr. 23; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), (d); id. §§
then assessed plaintiffs residual functional capacity
("RFC"), 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); id.
§ 416.920(e). The ALJ found plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity to:
[p]erform a range of light work as defined in 20 CFR
416.967(b), except she can frequently climb ramps or stairs,
but only occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She
can engage in frequent overhead reaching bilaterally. She can
frequently stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. She must avoid
more than occasional exposure to workplace hazards, such as
unprotected heights and moving mechanical parts. She must be
permitted to take three 5-minute breaks in addition to normal
four, the ALJ concluded plaintiff could perform her past
relevant work as a cashier and was thus not disabled. As an
alternative finding, the ALJ proceeded to step five and
determined plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy such as sorter,
assembler, or marker. 20 C.F.R. §§