United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL W. MOSMAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Michael A. ("Plaintiff) seeks judicial review of the
Commissioner of Social Security's decision denying his
application for Disability Insurance Benefits. I have
jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). For the
reasons stated below, I AFFIRM the ALJ's decision.
filed his application for Title II Disability Insurance
Benefits (DIB) with the Commissioner on July 31, 2013,
alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2010. He also
filed a claim for Title XVI Supplemental Security Income
(SSI), which was approved. Plaintiff was found eligible for
SSI beginning in August 2013. The DIB claim was initially
denied on March 27, 2014, and again upon reconsideration on
August 5, 2014. Plaintiff then filed a timely request for a
hearing on August 22, 2014. An ALJ held a hearing on March
17, 2016, in which Plaintiff was represented by council and
testified, as did a Vocational Expert. The ALJ issued a
decision on May 31, 2016, denying Plaintiffs application for
DIB on the basis that he was not disabled, as defined by the
Social Security Act ("the Act"), during the period
from January 1, 2010 until the date he last qualified for
disability insurance benefits ("date last
insured"). The Appeals Council denied review and
Plaintiff appealed to this Court.
made her decision based upon the five-step sequential
evaluation process established by the Secretary of Health and
Human Services. See Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094,
1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520. At
the first four steps of the process, the burden of proof is
on the claimant; only at the fifth and final step does the
burden of proof shift to the Commissioner. Tackett,
180 F.3d at 1098.
One, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not engage in
substantial gainful activity during the period from his
alleged onset date of January 1, 2010, through his date last
insured of March 31, 2012.
Two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiffs migraines and
avascular necrosis were severe impairments between January 1,
2010, and March 31, 2012.
Three, the ALJ determined that, as of his date last insured,
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of an
impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform light work, with the restrictions
that he could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds and
that he could not be exposed to vibration or to hazards such
as unprotected heights and moving mechanical parts.
Four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of
performing past relevant work as a sales representative,
sales manager, telemarketer, and front desk clerk. Because
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the RFC to do his past
relevant work, Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act and
the ALJ was not required to engage in the fifth step of the
review the ALJ's decision to ensure the ALJ applied
proper legal standards and that the ALJ's findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Bray v. Comm V of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009) (explaining
that the ALJ's decision must be supported by substantial
evidence and not based on legal error)."
'Substantial evidence' means more than a mere
scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion." Lingenfelter v. Astrue,
504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Robbins v.
Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)).
The Commissioner's decision must be upheld if it is a
rational interpretation of the evidence, even if there are
other possible rational interpretations. Magallanes v.
Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). Where the
evidence can support affirming the ALJ's decision, the
reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of
the ALJ. Robbins, 466 F.3d at 882.
argues the ALJ erred as a matter of law in denying his claim
for DIB because the ALJ's decision was not supported by
substantial evidence in the record. Specifically, he alleges
the ALJ failed to (1) provide clear4 and convincing reasons
for discounting Plaintiffs testimony regarding his symptoms;
(2) provide germane reasons for discounting the testimony of
a lay witness, Ms. Laura Tenny; (3) demonstrate through clear
and convincing evidence that Plaintiff did not meet or equal
the requirements for Listing 12.04 in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1; and (4) incorporate all of the medical
findings into the determination of Plaintiff s RFC. Because a
claimant can qualify for DIB only if his "disability
begins by [the] date last insured," Wellington v.
Berryhill, 878 F.3d 867, 872 (9th Cir. 2017), Plaintiff
must show that the ALJ erred in determining that he was not
disabled prior to March 31, 2012.
The ALJ's Assessment of Plaintiff s Testimony
argues that the ALJ erred in failing to give adequate reasons
for discrediting his account of his symptoms prior to the
date last insured. The ALJ determined that Plaintiffs
testimony about the intensity, persistence, and limiting
effects of the symptoms from his impairments was not
consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in
the record. Therefore, after accounting for all of Plaintiff
s symptoms, ...