United States District Court, D. Oregon
RAYMOND L. P.,  Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION & ORDER
A. RUSSO, MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Raymond L. P. brings this action for judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his application for
Disability Insurance Benefits under the Social Security Act.
For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's
decision is reversed and this case is remanded for further
April 15, 2014, plaintiff applied for Title II Disability
Insurance Benefits, alleging disability beginning on February
1, 2014. Tr. 20, 245. His application was denied initially and
upon reconsideration. Tr. 20, 156, 169. On June 9, 2016, a
hearing was held before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). Tr. 20, 46. Plaintiff was represented by
counsel and testified, as did a vocational expert
(“VE”). Tr. 20, 46-87. On September 23, 2016, the
ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. Tr.
17-45. On August 15, 2017, the Appeals Council denied
plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-5. On October 6,
2017, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court.
was born on January 6, 1970. Tr. 245. He was 44 years old on
the alleged date of disability and 46 years old at the time
of the ALJ's decision. Id. He left school in the
ninth grade and never obtained a high school diploma or
equivalent degree. Tr. 54, 267. He worked as a forklift
driver and “lead man” from 1997-2012. Tr. 55-56,
267-68. Plaintiff alleges disability due to sleep apnea,
chronic depression and anxiety, carpal tunnel syndrome,
diabetes, and chronic pain. Tr. 266, 272.
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. Hammock
v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla. It 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
quotations omitted). The court must weigh “both the
evidence that supports and detracts from the
[Commissioner's] conclusion.” Martinez v.
Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986) (citations
omitted). Variable interpretations of the evidence are
insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is
rational. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th
initial burden of proof rests upon plaintiff to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant 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. First, the Commissioner determines whether a
claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful
activity.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled.
two, the Commissioner evaluates 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). If the claimant does not have a
severe impairment, he is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's
impairments, either 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 140-41; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If so, the
claimant is presumptively disabled; if not, the Commissioner
proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner resolves whether the claimant can
still perform “past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(f). If the claimant can work, he is not
disabled; if he cannot perform past relevant work, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner. At step five, the Commissioner
must establish the claimant can perform other work existing
in significant numbers in the national or local economy.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(g). If the Commissioner meets this burden, the
claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1566.
one of the sequential evaluation process outlined above, the
ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date. Tr. 23. At step two,
the ALJ determined plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: abdominal disorder, bilateral carpal tunnel
syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea, spine disorder, obesity,
affective disorder, and anxiety disorder. Id. At
step three, the ALJ determined plaintiff does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments. Tr. 24.
plaintiff did not establish presumptive disability at step
three, the ALJ continued to evaluate how plaintiff's
impairments affected his ability to work. The ALJ determined
that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform sedentary work as defined by
20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) except he was limited to:
[f]requent climbing of ramps and stairs, kneeling and
crouching; occasional climbing of ladders, ropes and
scaffolds, stooping and crawling; frequent handling
bilaterally; less than occasional exposure to fumes, odors,
dust, gases, poor ventilation, and pulmonary irritants, and
also to hazards, such as moving mechanical parts and
unprotected heights; limited to performing simple and routine
tasks; limited to simple, ...