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Layle M. v. Commissioner Social Security

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 27, 2019

LAYLE M., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          KATHRYN TASSINARI BRENT WELLS Harder, Wells, Baron & Manning, P.C. Attorneys for Plaintiff

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney

          RENATA GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney

          MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel

          HEATHER L. GRIFFITH Special Assistant United States Attorney Social Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN, UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Layle M. seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which the Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         For the reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner and DISMISSES this matter.

         ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

         On January 7, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed her application for DIB benefits. Tr. 17, 162.[2] Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of July 31, 2013.[3] Tr. 17, 162. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on June 8, 2016. Tr. 17, 36-70. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified at the hearing. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at the hearing. At the hearing Plaintiff amended her alleged disability onset date to September 1, 2014. Tr. 17, 42.

         On March 27, 2017, the ALJ issued an opinion in which she found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 17-30. Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council. On October 16, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request to review the ALJ's decision, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-3. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         On December 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on November 30, 1968. Tr. 29. Plaintiff was 44 years old on her alleged disability onset date. Tr. 29. Plaintiff has a high-school education and one year of college. Tr. 29, 43. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a stocker, cashier, bank teller, loan processor, meter reader, administrative clerk, and grounds-maintenance worker. Tr. 29, 65-66.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, cervical degenerative disc disease, left-shoulder rotator-cuff syndrome, bilateral plantar fasciitis, right-knee degenerative disc disease, lupus, Sjogren's Syndrome, and depression. Tr. 72-73.

         Except as noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. After carefully reviewing the medical records, this Court adopts the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. See Tr. 22-29.

         STANDARDS

         The initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012). To meet this burden, a claimant must demonstrate her inability “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). The ALJ must develop the record when there is ambiguous evidence or when the record is inadequate to allow for proper evaluation of the evidence. McLeod v. Astrue, 640 F.3d 881, 885 (9th Cir. 2011)(quoting Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459B60 (9th Cir. 2001)).

         The district 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 as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See also Brewes v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is “relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Molina, 674 F.3d. at 1110-11 (quoting Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 690 (9th Cir. 2009)). It is more than a mere scintilla [of evidence] but less than a preponderance. Id. (citing Valentine, 574 F.3d at 690).

         The ALJ is responsible for evaluating a claimant's testimony, resolving conflicts in the medical evidence, and resolving ambiguities. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009). The court must weigh all of the evidence whether it supports or detracts from the Commissioner's decision. Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008). Even when the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must uphold the Commissioner's findings if they are supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record. Ludwig v. Astrue, 681 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2012). The court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1070 (9th Cir. 2006).

         DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         I. The Regulatory ...


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