United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
E. HAAPALA, JR., DREW L. JOHNSON Drew L. Johnson, P.C.
Attorneys for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney RENATA GOWIE Assistant
United States Attorney District of Oregon
CATHERINE ESCOBAR Special Assistant United States Attorney
HEATHER GRIFFITH Special Assistant United States Attorney
Office of the General Counsel Social Security Administration
Attorneys for Defendant
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION
MUSTAFA T. KASUBHAI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
S. (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of a final
decision by the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). This court has
jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3).
For the reasons set forth below, that decision should be
protectively filed for SSI on March 12, 2014, alleging
disability beginning January 1, 2002. Tr. 18. His application
was denied initially, and upon reconsideration. Tr. 18. A
hearing was held before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) on October 18, 2016. Plaintiff testified,
as did a vocational expert (“VE”), and Charles
Cooke, M.D., an impartial medical expert. Id. On
December 17, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision,
finding Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 15. On December 28, 2017,
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, making the ALJ's decision, the final decision of
the Commissioner. Tr. 1. Plaintiff timely filed this request
for district court review.
April 2, 1963, Plaintiff was 50 years old when he filed for
SSI and 53 years old at the time of his hearing before the
ALJ. Tr. 67. He completed his GED in 1982. Tr. 198. Over the
past 15 years, Plaintiff worked sporadically, doing odd jobs
like landscaping, collecting cans, and metal scrapping. Tr.
43-45, 198, 204. Plaintiff alleged disability due to back
injury, degenerative disc disease, high blood pressure, and
bursitis in his left shoulder. Tr. 67, 79, 233.
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). “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).
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. §
416.920. First, the Commissioner determines whether a
claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful
activity.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)(4)(i). 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. § 416.920(c). If the claimant does not have a
medically determinable, 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. § 416.920(d). If so, the
claimant is presumptively disabled. Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 141.
claimant's impairments are not equivalent to one of the
enumerated impairments, between the third and fourth steps
the ALJ is required to assess the claimant's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”), based on all the
relevant medical and other evidence in the claimant's
record. See 20 C.F.R § 416.920(e). The RFC is
an estimate of the claimant's capacity to perform
sustained, work-related physical and/or mental activities on
a regular and continuing basis, despite limitations imposed
by the claimant's impairments. See §
416.945; see also SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184.
four, the Commissioner resolves whether the claimant can
still perform “past relevant work.” 2 0 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(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 establish 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. § 416.920(g). If the Commissioner meets
this burden, the claimant is not disabled.
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since March 12, 2014, the date
of his application. Tr. 20.
two, the ALJ found Plaintiff had severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease and bursitis of the left shoulder.
Id. The ALJ also found Plaintiff's medically
determinable conditions of hypertension and shingles to be