United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Aiken United States District Judge
Ronald F. brings this action for judicial review of the
Commissioner of Social Security's
("Commissioner") final decision denying his
application for disability insurance benefits
("DIB"). The Commissioner determined that while
plaintiff suffered from severe impairments, he did not meet
the disability requirements under the Social Security Act
("Act"). For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case is
6, 2013, plaintiff filed an application for DIB with an
alleged disability onset date of December 25, 2011. Tr, 15.
The claim was initially denied on October 15, 2013, and it
was denied again on reconsideration on April 29, 2014.
Id. Plaintiff filed a written request for an
administrative hearing which was held on January 26, 2016.
Id. Plaintiff was represented by counsel. Plaintiff
and a Vocational Expert ("VE") testified at the
hearing. Prior to the hearing, plaintiff amended his alleged
disability onset date to December 28, 2011. Id. On
March 8, 2016, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")
issued an order finding that plaintiff was not under
disability for the requisite 12 months and was therefore not
eligible for DIB. Tr. 28.
was 57 years old at the time of his alleged onset date and 61
years old at the time of his hearing. PL's Br. at 3. He
completed some college coursework and was previously employed
as an insurance salesman and a support technician.
Id.; Tr. 60.
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. Astrue, 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 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 court may
not substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner" and the decision must be affirmed.
Edhind v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir.
initial burden of proof rests upon the plaintiff to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the plaintiff 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 lias established a five-step sequential process
for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v.
Yitckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4); id, § 416.920(a)(4), As a
threshold matter, the ALJ determined that plaintiff met the
insured status requirement. Tr. 17. Proceeding to step one,
the ALJ determined that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability
onset date of December 28, 2011. Id.; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), (b); id.
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(i), (b). At step two, the ALJ
determined that plaintiff had several severe impairments:
"history of longstanding lumbar degenerative disk
disease with failed laminectomy syndrome, left hand trigger
finger, and peripheral neuropathy." Id. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), (c); id.
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(ii), (c). The ALJ found that the
plaintiffs "medically determinable mental impairments of
anxiety disorder and depressive disorder, considered singly
and in combination, do not cause more than minimal
limitations" and were not severe. Tr. 19-20.
three, the ALJ determined that plaintiffs impairments,
whether considered singly or collectively, did not meet or
equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526 that Commissioner
acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful
activity. Tr. 20.
the ALJ assessed plaintiffs residual functional capacity
("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); id.
§ 416.920(e). The ALJ found that plaintiff had the RFC
to perform light work with the following limitations:
[Claimant is limited to not more than occasional stooping,
kneeling, balancing, or crouching. He can never crawl or
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and he is limited to no
more than frequent climbing of stairs and ramps. The claimant
can also only frequently handle, grasp, or finger with his
left hand and he would need to avoid concentration exposure
to heights, moving machinery, and similar hazards.
Tr. 21. In making this determination, the ALJ noted that the
"[plaintiffs] significant activities of daily
living" suggested that he was capable of performing
fairly significant work activities. Tr. 24.
four, the ALJ found that plaintiff was capable of performing
past relevant work as an insurance salesperson and support
technician, Tr. 27; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f). The ALJ relied upon the testimony of
a vocational expert in reaching this decision. Because