United States District Court, D. Oregon
HALPERN Halpern Law Group Attorney for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney
GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney
MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel
MICHAEL S. HOWARD Special Assistant United States Attorney
Social Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
J. BROWN, UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE
Amber Christine H. seeks judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (SSA) in which the Commissioner denied
Plaintiff's applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI 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 REVERSES the
decision of the Commissioner and REMANDS
14, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB benefits. In
that application Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of
January 1, 2007. Tr. 121. That application was denied on
September 6, 2012. Tr. 121-33. Plaintiff did not request
reconsideration of that denial. Tr. 230.
March 18, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed her application
for SSI benefits. Tr. 15, 84. In her application Plaintiff
alleges a disability onset date of May 1, 2008. Tr. 15.
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. On January 26, 2017, Plaintiff amended her
alleged onset date to March 14, 2012, and requested her prior
application be reopened. Tr. 15, 44, 230. An Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on February 9, 2017. Tr. 15,
38-83. Plaintiff, a vocational expert (VE), and a medical
expert testified. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at
March 29, 2017, the ALJ issued an opinion in which she found
Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to
benefits. Tr. 27. Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals
Council. On December 5, 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. 1-3. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S.
103, 106-07 (2000).
February 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court
seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.
was born on October 27, 1980. Tr. 26. Plaintiff was
thirty-two years old on the date that she filed her
application for SSI benefits. Tr. 26. Plaintiff attended
school through the 11th grade. Tr. 26, 238. The ALJ found
Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a
sandwich-maker, cashier, and service-station attendant. Tr.
alleges disability due to bipolar disorder, depression,
post-traumatic stress disorder, acid reflux, nerve pain,
anxiety issues, and asthma. Tr. 84.
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. 20-25.
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 her 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, 459B60 (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 ...