United States District Court, D. Oregon
KATHRYN TASSINARI DREW L. JOHNSON Drew L. Johnson, P.C.
Attorneys for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney
GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney
MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel JOSEPH J.
LANGKAMER Special Assistant United States Attorney-Social
Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
J. BROWN UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE
James Peter H. 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 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review
the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the
decision of the Commissioner and DISMISSES
December 1, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed his
application for SSI benefits. Tr. 20, 216. Plaintiff alleges
a disability onset date of July 9, 2006. Tr. 20, 216.
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a
hearing on July 21, 2016. Tr. 57-84. Plaintiff and a medical
expert, Ricardo Buitrago, Psy.D., testified at the hearing.
Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at the hearing. The
ALJ held a supplemental hearing on November 29, 2016. Tr.
40-56. A vocational expert (VE) testified at the hearing.
December 21, 2016, the ALJ issued an opinion in which she
found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not
entitled to benefits. Tr. 20-34. Plaintiff requested review
by the Appeals Council. On January 24, 2018, 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. 1-4. See Sims v.
Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
March 19, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court
seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.
was born on December 1, 1982. Tr. 33. Plaintiff was 32 years
old on his alleged disability onset date. Tr. 33.
has a high-school education and attended two years of
college. Tr. 33, 244. Plaintiff has past relevant work
experience as a newspaper carrier, fast-food clerk, shoe
salesman, grocery clerk, construction worker, gas-station
attendant, retail-store manager, rental clerk, dishwasher,
and housekeeper. Tr. 32, 50.
alleges disability due to post-traumatic stress syndrome
(PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), severe
depression, social anxiety, leg injury with neuropathy and
chronic pain, back injury with chronic pain, problems with
depth perception, oral infections, interstitial cystitis, and
agoraphobia. Tr. 26, 86-87.
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. 28-32.
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 his 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, 459-60 (9th Cir. 2001)).
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).
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).
The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation
One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity (SGA). 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). See
also Keyser v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 648 F.3d 721,
724 (9th Cir. 2011).
Two the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant does not have any medically severe
impairment or combination of impairments. 2 0 C.F.R.
§416.920(a)(4)(ii). See also Keyser, 648 F.3d
Three the claimant is disabled if the Commissioner determines
the claimant's impairments meet or equal one of the
listed impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges are so
severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)(4)(iii). See also Keyser, 648 F.3d
at 724. The criteria for the listed impairments, ...