United States District Court, D. Oregon
SCOTT WAYSON, Cascadia Disability Law LLC, Attorneys for
J. WILLIAMS, United States Attorney, RENATA GOWIE, Assistant
United States Attorney, MICHAEL W. PILE, Acting Regional
Chief Counsel, JOSEPH JOHN LANGKAMER, Special Assistant
United States Attorney, Social Security Administration,
Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Jasmine B. seeks judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in
which she denied Plaintiff's application 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
filed an application for SSI on June 4, 2014, and alleged a
disability onset date of June 16, 1992. Tr.
Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration.
An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on January
25, 2017. Tr. 41-75. At the hearing the ALJ amended
Plaintiff's onset date to April 17, 2014. Tr. 45.
Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified at the
hearing, and Plaintiff was represented by an attorney.
March 9, 2017, the ALJ issued an opinion in which she found
Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to
benefits. Tr. 25-36. On March 19, 2018, that decision became
the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-6.
See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
was born on June 16, 1992, and was 24 years old at the time
of the hearing. Tr. 184. Plaintiff has a high-school
education. Tr. 51. Plaintiff does not have any past relevant
work experience. Tr. 69.
alleges disability due to an anxiety disorder with panic
attacks, borderline intellectual functioning, and depression.
when 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. 17, 31-33.
initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish
disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110
(9thCir. 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, 459-60 (9th Cir.
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 determining credibility, 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.
The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation
Commissioner has developed a five-step sequential inquiry to
determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning
of the Act. Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746
(9th Cir.2007). See also 20 C.F.R. §
416.920. Each step is potentially dispositive.
One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b). 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. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(c). See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.
Three the claimant is disabled if the Commissioner determines
the claimant's impairments meet or equal one of a number
of listed impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges are
so severe they 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,
known as Listings, are enumerated in 20 C.F.R. part 404,
subpart P, appendix 1 (Listed Impairments).
Commissioner proceeds beyond Step Three, she must assess the
claimant's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). The
claimant's RFC is an assessment of the sustained,
work-related physical and mental activities the claimant can
still do on a regular and continuing basis despite her
limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a). See also
Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-8p. “A 'regular and
continuing basis' means 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week,
or an equivalent schedule." SSR 96-8p, at *1. In other
words, the Social Security Act does not require complete
incapacity to be disabled. Taylor v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 659 F.3d 1228, 1234-35 (9th Cir.
2011)(citing Fair v. Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 603
(9th Cir. 1989)).
Four the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant retains the RFC to perform work she
has done in the past. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv).
See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.
Commissioner reaches Step Five, she must determine whether
the claimant is able to do any other work that exists in the
national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v). See
also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724. Here the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to show a significant number of jobs exist
in the national economy that the claimant can perform.
Lockwood v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 616 F.3d
1068, 1071 (9th Cir. 2010). The Commissioner may
satisfy this burden through the testimony of a VE or by
reference to the Medical-Vocational Guidelines set forth in
the regulations at 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 2.
If the Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(g)(1).
One the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since her April 17, 2014, amended alleged
onset date. Tr. 27.
Two the ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe impairments of
borderline intellectual functioning, depression, and an
“anxiety disorder with associated panic attacks.”
Tr. 27. The ALJ found Plaintiff's conditions of obesity
and back pain are nonsevere. Tr. 27.
Three the ALJ concluded Plaintiff's impairments do not
meet or equal the criteria for any Listed Impairment from 20
C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 1. The ALJ found
Plaintiff has the RFC to perform “a full range of work
at all exertional levels” with the following
limitations: never interacting with the general public or
“perform[ing] any task that would require team
work”; never climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds or
working around unprotected heights or dangerous machinery;
and only occasionally interacting with coworkers “such
as brief conversations.” Tr. 29. The ALJ also found
Plaintiff can “understand, remember and carry out tasks
or instructions consistent with occupations with an SVP level
of 1 to 2[;] . . . make simple work related decisions[; and]
only work in an environment with few workplace
changes.” Tr. 29.
Four the ALJ found Plaintiff does not have any past relevant
work. Tr. 34.
Five the ALJ found Plaintiff could perform jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy. Tr. 35.