United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Patricia Sullivan, United States Magistrate Judge.
David S. seeks judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying his applications for
child's insurance benefits (“CIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”) pursuant to
the Social Security Act (the “Act”). (Docket No.
1). 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). See (Docket No. 6). For the
reasons that follow, the Commissioner's final decision is
AFFIRMED and this case is DISMISSED.
filed an application for CIB in January 2015 and an
application for SSI in February 2015. Tr. 15, 259-60,
261-66. He alleged an onset date for both
applications of September 1, 2005. Id. His
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Id.; see also Tr. 74-83, 84-93, 107-118,
119-30, 131-42. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), and a hearing
was held on May 11, 2017. Tr. 43-70, 184-85. On August 29,
2017, an ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled
within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 15-27. The Appeals Council
denied plaintiff's request for review on April 25, 2018,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Tr. 1-6. This appeal followed.
1989, plaintiff was 16 years old on his alleged onset date
and 27 years old on the date of his hearing. Tr. 74, 49. He
completed high school, as well as some college coursework,
and has past work experience as an automotive detailer, fleet
truck washer, and parking lot maintenance worker. Tr. 49,
288. He alleged disability due to major depressive disorder
and dysthymia. Tr. 287.
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) (quotation omitted).
The court must weigh “both the evidence that supports
and detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusion.”
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, [the court] may not substitute
[its] judgment for the ALJ's.” Massachi v.
Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation
omitted); see also Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676,
680-81 (9th Cir. 2005) (holding that the court “must
uphold the ALJ's decision where the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation”).
“[A] reviewing court must consider the entire record as
a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a specific
quantum of supporting evidence.” Orn v.
Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007) (quotation
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).
relevant here, an applicant qualifies for CIB if he “is
under a disability which began prior to age 22, and was
dependent on the insured at the time of the insured's
death.” Astrue v. Capato ex rel. B. N.C. , 566
U.S. 541, 547 (2012) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)).
Commissioner has established a five-step 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. First, the Commissioner
determines whether a claimant is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity”; if so, the
claimant is not disabled. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140;
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). At step two,
the Commissioner determines 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). A severe
impairment is one “which significantly limits [the
claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities[.]” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) &
416.920(c). If not, the claimant is not disabled.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141. At step three, the
Commissioner determines whether the impairments meet or equal
“one of a number of listed impairments that the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity.” Id.; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is
conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the analysis
proceeds. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
point, the Commissioner must evaluate medical and other
relevant evidence to determine the claimant's
“residual functional capacity”
(“RFC”), an assessment of work-related activities
that the claimant may still perform on a regular and
continuing basis, despite any limitations his impairments
impose. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 404.1545(b)-(c),
416.920(e), 416.945(b)-(c). At the fourth step, the
Commissioner determines whether the claimant can perform
“past relevant work.” Yuckert, 482 U.S.
at 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If
the claimant can work, he is not disabled; if he cannot
perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 146 n.5. At step
five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can
perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy. Id. at 142; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the
Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.
one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not attained the age of
22 and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
the alleged onset date. Tr. 17. At step two, the ALJ found
that plaintiff had had the following severe impairments:
depression, anxiety, and substance abuse and addiction
disorder. Tr. 18.
three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination thereof that met or equaled a
listed impairment. Id. The ALJ found that plaintiff
had the RFC to perform a full range of work at all exertional
levels, but was limited to “no more than frequent
interactive contact with the public.” Tr. 19. At step
four, the ALJ found that plaintiff was capable of performing
his past relevant work as a street sweeper. Tr. 25. In the
alternative, the ALJ made a step five finding that
considering plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and RFC, other jobs existed in the national such that
plaintiff could sustain employment despite his impairments.
Tr. 26. Specifically, the ALJ found plaintiff was capable of
performing the jobs of battery stacker, lumber sorter, and
hand packager. Id.; see also Tr. 65. The
ALJ thus found plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning
of the Act. Tr. 27.
asserts the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to provide clear and
convincing reasons for rejecting his subjective symptom
testimony; (2) improperly weighing the medical opinion
evidence of record; (3) failing to provide germane reasons
for rejecting the lay witness testimony of his father; (4)
omitting a coworker and supervisor limitation in his RFC; and
(5) concluding plaintiff was capable of past relevant work at
Subjective Symptom Testimony
claimant has medically documented impairments that could
reasonably be expected to produce some degree of the symptoms
complained of, and the record contains no affirmative
evidence of malingering, “the ALJ can reject the
claimant's testimony about the severity of . . . symptoms
only by offering specific, clear and convincing reasons for
doing so.” Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273,
1281 (9th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). A general assertion
that the claimant is not credible is insufficient; the ALJ
must “state which . . . testimony is not credible and
what evidence suggests the complaints are not
credible.” Dodrill v. Shalala, 12 F.3d 915,
918 (9th Cir. 1993). The reasons proffered must be
“sufficiently specific to permit the reviewing court to
conclude that the ALJ did not arbitrarily discredit the
claimant's testimony.” Orteza v. Shalala,
50 F.3d 748, 750 (9th Cir. 1995) (internal citation omitted).
If the “ALJ's credibility finding is supported by
substantial evidence in the record, [the court] may not
engage in second-guessing.” Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 959 (9th Cir. 2002) (citation
Security Ruling (“SSR”) 16-3p clarified that ALJs
are not tasked with “examining an individual's
character” or propensity for truthfulness, and instead
must assess whether the claimant's subjective symptom
statements are consistent with the record as a whole.
See SSR 16-3p, available at 2017 WL 5180304
(Oct. 25, 2017). If the ALJ's subjective symptom analysis
“is supported by substantial evidence in the record,
[the court] may not engage in second-guessing.”
Thomas, 278 F.3d at 959 (citation omitted).
hearing, plaintiff testified that his inability to interact
with coworkers and follow instructions would preclude him
from returning to work. Tr. 53. He further explained that a
“major panic attack” caused him to cancel a
scheduled job interview. Tr. 55. Plaintiff testified that in
2014 he “was having suicidal thoughts multiple times a
day, ” but that a combination of therapy and medication
“made the most difference.” Tr. 58. He testified
that his depression affected his energy and motivation levels
as well as his ability to concentrate and focus. Tr. 59.
Finally, his anxiety made social interaction difficult, and