United States District Court, D. Oregon
AARON W. P.,  Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
KATHERINE L. EITENMILLER Harder, Wells, Baron & Manning,
Attorneys for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney
GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney
MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel SARAH MOUM
Special Assistant United States Attorney Social Security
Administration Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
J. BROWN UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE
Aaron W. P. seeks judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA)
in which the Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application
for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the
Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review
the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the
decision of the Commissioner in this matter.
protectively filed his initial application for DIB benefits
on June 21, 2013. Tr. 378. Plaintiff alleged a disability onset
date of April 11, 2013. Plaintiff's application was
denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on August 20, 2015. Tr.
411-64. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified.
Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at the hearing.
October 5, 2015, the ALJ issued an opinion in which he found
Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to
benefits. Tr. 378-90.
August 10, 2016, Plaintiff requested review of the hearing
decision by the Appeals Council.
18, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
to review the ALJ's decision, and the ALJ's decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-4.
See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
September 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court
seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.
was born on April 6, 1963, and was 50 years old on his
alleged disability onset date. Tr. 389. Plaintiff has a
General Education Diploma (GED). Tr. 417. The ALJ found
Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work as a
carpenter. Tr. 388.
alleges disability due to PTSD, hypertension, osteoarthritis,
anxiety, depression, panic attacks, right knee impairment,
bilateral-shoulder impairment, and left-eye impairment. Tr.
as 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. 380-88.
initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish
disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110
(9th Cir. 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)).
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).
is responsible for evaluating a claimant's testimony,
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).
The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation
One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity (SGA). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(I). See
also Keyser v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 648 F.3d 721,
724 (9th Cir. 2011).
Two the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant does not have any medically severe
impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1509, 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). See also
Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.
Three the claimant is disabled if the Commissioner determines
the claimant's impairments meet or equal one of the
listed impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges are so
severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). See also Keyser, 648
F.3d at 724. The criteria for the listed impairments, known
as Listings, are enumerated in 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P,
appendix 1 (Listed Impairments).
Commissioner proceeds beyond Step Three, he must assess the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC). The
claimant's RFC is an assessment of the sustained,
work-related physical and mental activities the claimant can
still do on a regular and continuing basis despite his
limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). See also
Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-8p. “A ‘regular
and continuing basis' means 8 hours a day, for 5 days a
week, or an equivalent schedule.” SSR 96-8p, at *1. In
other words, the Social Security Act does not require