United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Yim You, United States Magistrate Judge
Tamara K. seeks judicial review of the final decision by the
Social Security Commissioner (“Commissioner”)
denying her 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). For the reasons set forth below,
the Commissioner's decision should be AFFIRMED.
applied for DIB and SSI on September 3, 2013. Tr. 20.
Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of January 1, 2011.
Id. Plaintiff's applications were denied
initially and on reconsideration. Id. Plaintiff
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), which took place on January 6, 2016,
before ALJ Rudy Murgo. Id. Plaintiff was represented
by counsel and testified, as did a vocational expert
(“VE”). Id. At the hearing, plaintiff
amended her alleged disability onset date to January 1, 2012.
Id. ALJ Murgo conducted two supplemental hearings,
on April 7 and July 11, 2016, to take testimony from a
medical expert. Id. On August 2, 2016, the ALJ
issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled, and the
Appeals Council subsequently denied review. Tr. 20-39.
Plaintiff then filed a complaint in this court.
1968, plaintiff was 43 years old on the alleged disability
onset date. Tr. 37. Plaintiff alleges disability due to
depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(“ADHD”), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(“PTSD”). Tr. 440. Plaintiff has worked as a
sales clerk, cosmetics demonstrator, customer service
representative, baker, exotic dancer, self-employed boutique
manager, modem company manager, insurance agent, and artist.
Tr. 36-37, 73, 161, 901, 918, 957. Plaintiff did not complete
high school, but later obtained a GED and took two years of
college courses. Tr. 406.
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. §§ 404.1520(b) and 416.920(b). If so, the
claimant 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) and 416.920(c). 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) and
416.920(d). 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). If the claimant can
work, he is not disabled; if he cannot perform past relevant
work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner.
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) and 416.920(g). If
the Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566 and 416.966.
one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date,
January 1, 2012. Tr. 22.
two, the ALJ determined plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: ADHD, affective disorder, anxiety disorder, and
PTSD. Id. The ALJ found that plaintiff's
“sprains and strains, ” as well as her
“post-concussion syndrome status/post motor vehicle
accident, ” were non-severe impairments. Tr. 26.
three, the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments, either
singly or in combination, did not meet or equal the
requirements of a listed impairment. Tr. 27-31. Because
plaintiff did not establish disability at step three, the ALJ
continued to evaluate how plaintiff's impairments
affected her ability to work during the relevant period. The
ALJ found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a full range of work, except
she was limited to performing “simple routine tasks
rated at the SVP 1 or SVP 2 skill levels, she can have no
public contact, and she can have superficial supervisor and
co-worker contact.” Tr. 32.
four, the ALJ found that plaintiff was unable to perform her