United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION & ORDER
A. HERNÁNDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
brings this action for judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act and Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social
Security Act. The Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)).
Because the Commissioner's decision is free of legal
error and supported by substantial evidence in the record,
the Court AFFIRMS the decision and DISMISSES this case.
was born on April 24, 1961 and was fifty-one years old on
June 27, 2012, the alleged disability onset date. Tr.
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act (“SSA” or “Act”) through
December 31, 2013. Tr. 25. Plaintiff is able to perform past
relevant work as a customer service representative, order
clerk, front desk receptionist, and inventory control
supervisor. Tr. 42. Plaintiff claims she is disabled based on
conditions including pain from a past spinal fracture, high
blood pressure, and depression. Tr. 247, 260.
benefits application was denied initially on April 21, 2014,
and upon reconsideration on February 5, 2015. Tr. 23. A
hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Rebecca
Jones on July 28, 2016. Id.; Tr. 49-112. ALJ Jones
issued a written decision on December 12, 2016, finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled or entitled to benefits. Tr. 43.
The Appeals Council declined review, rendering ALJ Jones'
decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1-6. The
issue here is therefore whether the ALJ properly determined
that Plaintiff was not disabled during the relevant time
claimant is disabled if she is unable to “engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which . . . has
lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of
not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). Disability claims are evaluated according to a
five-step procedure. Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009). The claimant
bears the ultimate burden of proving disability. Id.
first step, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” If so,
the claimant is not disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 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). If
not, the claimant is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether claimant's
impairments, 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 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if
not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant,
despite any impairment(s), has the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform “past relevant
work.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).
If the claimant can, the claimant is not disabled. If the
claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts
to the Commissioner. At step five, the Commissioner must
establish that the claimant can perform other work.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the
Commissioner meets its burden and proves that the claimant is
able to perform other work which exists in the national
economy, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability
onset date. Tr. 25. At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
had “the following severe impairments: degenerative
disc disease of the lumbar spine, status post open reduction
internal fixation at ¶ 12-L1; length dependent sensory
neuropathy; and hypertension.” Tr. 26. At step
three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have any
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments. Tr. 30. In particular, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff's physical conditions did not meet the
requirements of Listing 1.04 (disorders of the spine), 4.00
(cardiovascular), or 11.14 (peripheral neuropathy).
proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform less than the
full range of light work. The ALJ noted that “[t]he
claimant is able to occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds. She is able to occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch,
and crawl. The claimant requires a sit/stand option, which is
defined as the option to change position after 30 to 60
minutes for 3 to 5 minutes at a time while remaining on
task.” Tr. 30-31.
four, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a vocational expert
to determine that Plaintiff was able to perform past relevant
work as a customer service representative, order clerk, front
desk receptionist, and inventory control supervisor. Tr. 42.
At step five, the ALJ further found that before Plaintiff
turned fifty-five on April 23, 2016, “she was capable
of performing other jobs available in significant numbers in
the national economy.” Tr. 43.
the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff was not disabled from
the alleged date of disability, June 27, 2012 through the
date of the decision on December 12, 2016. Id.
may set aside the Commissioner's denial of benefits only
when the Commissioner's findings are based on legal error
or are not supported by substantial evidence in the record as
a whole. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th
Cir. 2009). “Substantial evidence means 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.” Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted). Courts consider the
record as a whole, including both the evidence that supports
and detracts from the Commissioner's decision.
Id.; Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028,
1035 (9th Cir. 2007). “Where the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the
ALJ's decision must be affirmed.” Vasquez,
572 F.3d at 591 (internal quotation marks omitted); see