United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION & ORDER
AIKEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Sara L. seeks judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner")
denying supplemental security income ("SSI")
pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act. For the
reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is
REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings.
filed an application for SSI on September 19, 2013. She
alleged disability beginning January 1, 2010. Her application
was denied initially and upon review. Plaintiff appeared
before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") at a
hearing held February 22, 2016. On May 4, 2016, the
ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. On
August 21, 2017, the Appeals Council declined plaintiff s
request for review, making the ALJ decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. The present appeal followed.
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
it is based upon proper legal standards and the findings are
supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Berry v. Astme, 622 F.3d 1228, 1231
(9th Cir. 2010). "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." Gutierrez v. Comm
'r of Soc. Sec, 740 F.3d 519, 522 (9th Cir. 2014)
(citation and quotation marks omitted). The court must weigh
"both the evidence that supports and the evidence that
detracts from the ALJ's conclusion." Mayes v.
Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th Cir. 2001). If the
evidence is subject to more than one interpretation but the
Commissioner's decision is rational, the Commissioner
must be affirmed because "the court may not substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner." Edhmd v.
Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).
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); see also 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4); id. §
416.920(a)(4). At step one, the ALJ found that although
plaintiff had engaged in "substantial gainful
activity" ("SGA") for portions of 2014, there
had been a "continuous 12-month period during which
[plaintiff] did not engage in SGA." Tr. 22-23; see
also 20 C.F.R. § 404.152O(a)(4)(i), (b);
id. § 4l6.92O(a)(4)(i), (b). At step two, the
ALJ found plaintiff suffers from "affective disorder,
which is characterized as bipolar disorder, and depressive
disorder and anxiety disorder[.]" Tr. 23; see
also 20 C.F.R. § 4O4.l52O(a)(4)(ii), (c);
id. § 4l6.92O(a)(4)(ii), (c).
three, the ALJ determined plaintiffs impairments, whether
considered singly or in combination, did not meet or equal
"one of the listed impairments" that the
Commissioner acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity. Tr. 23; see also 20
C.F.R. § 4O4, l52O(a)(4)(iii), (d); id. §
4l6.92O(a)(4)(iii), (d). As relevant in this appeal regarding
plaintiffs mental disorders, the ALJ found that the
"evidence did not. . . suggest that a slight increase in
mental demands or change in environment would probably result
in decompensation."Tr. 24.
then found plaintiff retained the residual functional
capacity ("RFC") to:
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following non-exertional limitations: [Plaintiff] is
capable of understanding, remembering and carrying out
simple, repetitive tasks involving no more than occasional
contact with the public and coworkers. [She] is limited to
simple work-related decisions. [She] is limited to occasional
interaction with coworkers, supervisors, and the public.
Tr. 25; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e);
id. § 416.920(e).
four, the ALJ concluded plaintiff had no past relevant work.
Tr, 29; see also 20 C.F.R. §
4O4.l52O(a)(4)(iv), (f); id. §
4l6.92O(a)(4)(iv). At step five, the ALJ found plaintiff
could perform the jobs of janitor, cook's helper, or
warehouse worker. Tr. 30; see also 20 C.F.R. §
4O4.l52O(a)(4)(v), (g)(1); id. §