United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael J. McShane United States District Judge.
Jonathon T. brings this action for judicial review of a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his
application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”)
under Title II of the Social Security Act. This Court has
jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
issues before this Court are: (1) whether the Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) erred in determining that Plaintiff's
Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) was light exertional; and
(2) if the ALJ erred in determining Plaintiff's RFC,
whether the error was harmless.
the ALJ's RFC finding was supported by substantial
evidence in the record, the ALJ did not legally err and the
Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
applied for DIB and SSI on December 20, 2012, alleging
disability since September 15, 2012. Tr. 16. Both claims were
denied initially, tr. 129, and upon reconsideration, tr. 140.
Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an ALJ,
see tr. 146, and appeared before the Honorable Shani
Pines on September 17, 2015, tr. 36. ALJ Pines denied
Plaintiff's claims by a written decision dated November
27, 2015. Tr. 16-28. Plaintiff sought review from the Appeals
Council, tr. 77, and was denied, tr. 1, rendering the
ALJ's decision final. Plaintiff now seeks judicial
completed the ninth or tenth grade, tr. 42, 213, and worked
variously from 2003 to 2012 as a gas station attendant, gas
station manager, and most recently as a hose manufacturer,
tr. 263. Plaintiff was 44 years old at the alleged onset of
disability, tr. 27, and 47 at the time of his hearing,
see id.; see also tr. 36. Plaintiff alleges
disability due to rheumatoid arthritis, depression,
degenerative disc disease of the lower back, tendonitis, and
hepatitis C. Tr. 212. Plaintiff argues on appeal that the ALJ
wrongly determined that his RFC is light exertional with some
additional functional limitations. Pl.'s Br. at 5-6.
reviewing court shall affirm the Commissioner's decision
if the decision is based on proper legal standards and the
legal findings are supported by substantial evidence in the
record. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th
Cir. 2004). “Substantial evidence is ‘more than a
mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.'” Hill v.
Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Sandgathe v. Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir.
1997)). To determine whether substantial evidence exists, the
court reviews the administrative record as a whole, weighing
both the evidence that supports and that which detracts from
the ALJ's conclusion. Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d
323, 326 (9th Cir. 1989) (citing Martinez v.
Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986)).
“‘If the evidence can reasonably support either
affirming or reversing,' the reviewing court ‘may
not substitute its judgment' for that of the
Commissioner.” Gutierrez v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 740 F.3d 519, 523 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720-21 (9th Cir.
Social Security Administration utilizes a five-step
sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4) (2012). The burden of proof rests on the
claimant for steps one through four, and on the Commissioner
for step five. Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d
949, 953-54 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Tackett v.
Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999)). At step
five, the Commissioner's burden is to demonstrate that
the claimant can make an adjustment to other work after
considering the claimant's residual functional capacity,
age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(v). If the Commissioner fails to meet
this burden, then the claimant is disabled. Id. If,
however, the Commissioner proves that the claimant is able to
perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
national economy, the claimant is not disabled. Id.
contends the ALJ's disability decision contains legal
errors and is not supported by substantial evidence.
Pl.'s Br. at 4. In particular, Plaintiff brings two
arguments: (1) the ALJ erred in rejecting the expert opinion
of Dr. Arthur Lorber, an orthopedic surgeon, that
Plaintiff's RFC was sedentary; and (2) the ALJ's
error was harmful because the vocational expert (VE) failed
to testify to real jobs in the national economy at the
sedentary RFC level. Because there is sufficient evidence in
the record to support the ALJ's conclusion that
Plaintiff's RFC was light exertional, the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
Administrative Law Judge did not err in her determination of
Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in rejecting Dr.
Lorber's testimony that Plaintiff's RFC was
sedentary. Pl.'s Br. at 4. Plaintiff asserts that, as an
orthopedic surgeon, the ALJ should have given Dr.
Lorber's testimony greater weight than the opinions of
the two state agency medical experts, ...