United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
BREWER Of Attorney for Plaintiff BILLY J. WILLIAMS United
States Attorney RENATA GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney
HEATHER GRIFFITH Special Assistant United States of Attorneys
OPINION AND ORDER
V. ACOSTA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
H. ("Plaintiff) seeks judicial review of the final
decision by the Social Security Commissioner
("Commissioner") denying his applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("SSA"). This
Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's
decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Based on a
careful review of the record, the Commissioner's decision
filed for DIB and SSI on June 8, 2012, alleging disability as
of December 4, 2009, due to hypertension; degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine; arthritis of the back and knees;
post-surgical right knee meniscus tear; and depression. (Tr.
287.) His applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 19.) Following an administrative
hearing, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled. (Tr. 121.) However, the Appeals Council vacated the
decision and remanded the case for further consideration.
(Tr. 137.) A hearing was held on November 4, 2016, before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"); Plaintiff was
represented by a non-attorney representative and testified,
as did a vocational expert ("VE"). (Tr. 57-73.) On
January 27, 2017, ALJ Paul Robeck issued a decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 15-30.) Plaintiff requested
timely review of the ALJ's decision and, after the
Appeals Council denied his request for review, filed a
complaint in this Court. (Tr. 1-3.)
1969, Plaintiff was 40 years old on his alleged disability
onset date. (Tr. 28.) Plaintiff completed high school and
previously worked as a maintenance worker, warehouse worker,
and production worker. (Tr. 289.)
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] conclusions." Martinez v.
Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). Variable
interpretations of the evidence are insignificant if the
Commissioner's interpretation is rational. Burch v.
Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).
initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant 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.
§§ 404.1502 and 404.920. First, the Commissioner
considers whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial
gainful activity." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(b). If so, the claimant is not
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), 416.920(a)(4)(h). If the
claimant does not have a severe impairment, he is not
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),
4l6.92O(a)(4)(iii). 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) and 404.920(f), 4l6.92O(a)(4)(iv).
If the claimant can work, he is not disabled; if he cannot
perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the
five, the Commissioner must demonstrate that 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), 416.960(c). If
the Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 4l6.92O(a)(4)(v).
one of the sequential evaluation process outlined above, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity ...