United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
V. Acosta, Judge
("plaintiff) seeks judicial review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("Commissioner") denying her applications for Title
II Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Title
XVI Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under the
Social Security Act ("Act"). This Court has
jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). All parties have
consented to allow a Magistrate Judge to enter final orders
and judgment in this case in accordance with Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 73 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Based on a
careful review of the record, the Commissioner's decision
applied for DIB and SSI on September 3, 2013, alleging
disability as of January 1, 2008, due to bipolar disorder,
dissociative mood disorder, social anxiety, depression,
diabetes, panic attacks, and periodic mania. (Tr. 195, 202,
239.) Her applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 126, 131.) Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"),
and an administrative hearing was held on June 3, 2016. (Tr.
49-73.) ALJ MaryKay Rauenzahn issued a decision finding
plaintiff not disabled on July 21, 2016. (Tr. 21-37.) The
Appeals Council denied plaintiffs request for review on June
20, 2017, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-4.) This appeal followed.
1974, plaintiff was 33 years old on the alleged onset date,
and 42 years old at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 35, 52.)
She earned a GED and completed some college. (Tr. 53.)
Plaintiff previously worked as a telephone sales
representative, customer service representative/user support
analyst, and motor vehicle dispatcher. (Tr. 34-35.)
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) (quoting Consol.
Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). 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). "Where the evidence as a whole can support either
a grant or a denial, [a court] may not substitute [its]
judgment for the ALJ's." Massachi v.
Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation
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.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. At step one, the Commissioner
determines whether the claimant is engaged in
"substantial gainful activity." Yuckert,
482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
416.920(b). If so, she 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), 416.920(c). If the claimant
does not have a severe impairment, she is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's
impairments, either individually 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 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
If so, she is presumptively disabled; if not, the
Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant can
still perform "past relevant work." 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f). If the claimant can
perform past relevant work, she is not disabled; if she
cannot, the burden shifts to the Commissioner.
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), 416.920(g). If
the Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.
performed the sequential analysis, as noted above. At step
one, the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in SGA since the
alleged onset date, January 1, 2008. (Tr. 23.) At step two,
the ALJ determined plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: diabetes mellitus, type II; obesity; migraines;
depression; bipolar II disorder; anxiety disorder,
unspecified; posttraumatic stress disorder ("PTSD")
with dissociative symptoms; panic disorder; and agoraphobia.
(Id.) At step three, the ALJ found plaintiff did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled a listed impairment. (Tr. 24.)
determined plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform "a full range of work at
all exertional levels," with the following
She can have no exposure to workplace hazards, such as
unprotected heights and dangerous machinery. She is limited
to understanding, remembering, and carrying out routine
instructions that can be learned in 30-days or less. She is
limited to engaging in a low stress occupation, further
defined as requiring only occasional changes in work setting
and work duties and no conveyor belt paced work. She is also
limited to performing only isolated work, further defined as
requiring no ...