United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael McShane United States District Judge.
Cammie W. seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's
decision denying her application for supplemental security
income (SSI) and Disability Insurance benefits (DIB) under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act. This Court has
jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and
1383(c)(3). Because the Commissioner's decision is based
on proper legal standards and supported by substantial
evidence, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
filed an application for SSI on April 5, 2013, tr.
for DIB on June 21, 2013, tr. 349, alleging disability as of
May 7, 2008, id. Following a denial of benefits,
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law
judge (ALJ). After a hearing, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
was not disabled from May 7, 2008 through July 15, 2016. Tr.
79-80. The Appeals Counsel denied Plaintiff's request for
review. Tr. 1-4. This appeal followed.
reviewing court shall affirm the Commissioner's decision
if the decision is based on proper legal standards and the
legal findings are supported by substantial evidence in the
record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004).
“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.'” Hill v. Astrue,
698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Sandgathe v.
Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997)). To determine
whether substantial evidence exists, we review the
administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence
that supports and detracts from the ALJ's conclusion.
Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323, 326 (9th Cir. 1989).
“If the evidence can reasonably support either
affirming or reversing, ‘the reviewing court may not
substitute its judgment' for that of the
Commissioner.” Gutierrez v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 740 F.3d 519, 523 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720-21 (9th Cir.
Social Security Administration utilizes a five-step
sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2012).
The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to meet
the first four steps. If the claimant satisfies her burden
with respect to the first four steps, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner for step five. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At
step five, the Commissioner must show that the claimant can
make an adjustment to other work after considering the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), age,
education, and work experience. Id. If the
Commissioner fails to meet this burden, then the claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v). If, however, the Commissioner proves that
the claimant can perform other work existing in significant
numbers in the national economy, the claimant is not
disabled. Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949,
953-54 (9th Cir. 2001).
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not engaged in substantially
gainful activity. Tr. 73. At step two, the ALJ found
Plaintiff suffered from severe impairments of schizophrenia
paranoid type, depressive disorder not otherwise specified,
and a history of alcohol abuse in remission. Id. At
step three, the ALJ found that none of Plaintiff's
impairments or combination of impairments met or medically
equaled the criteria of a listing. Tr. 74-75.
step four, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's RFC and
determined Plaintiff could perform a full range of work with
no exertional limitations. Tr. 75. However, the ALJ also
determined Plaintiff's work should be limited to simple
routine, slow-paced, and undetailed tasks with only
occasional and indirect contact with coworkers and the public
but no public interaction as a job duty. Tr. 75-76. The ALJ
also limited Plaintiff to low stress work, with few changes
to routine or work setting. Tr. 76. At step four, the ALJ
found Plaintiff could not perform past relevant work. Tr. 78.
At step five, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform the
jobs of laundry worker, linen room attendant, and folder, all
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy. Tr. 79. The ALJ concluded plaintiff was not
argues the ALJ erred in three ways. First, the ALJ failed to
provide specific, clear and convincing reasons supported by
substantial evidence in discounting Plaintiff's
subjective limitations. Second, when formulating
Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ erred by failing to consider the
opinions of three “other sources.” Finally, the
ALJ had a duty to further develop the record. I address each
of Plaintiff's arguments in turn.
The ALJ provided specific, clear and convincing reasons
supported by substantial evidence in the
record for finding Plaintiff less-than fully
did not err in discounting the Plaintiff's statements as
to the severity of her symptoms. Tr. 76-78. An ALJ must
follow a two-step process to evaluate Plaintiff's
symptoms. See SSR 16-3p. At step one, the ALJ found
Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments could
reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms. Tr. 76.
At step two, the ALJ pointed to specific, clear and
convincing reasons supported by substantial evidence in the
record to discount Plaintiff's statements about the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her symptoms.
with the medical record is a sufficient basis for rejecting
the claimant's subjective testimony.” Carmickle
v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1161 (9th
Cir. 2008). Here, the ALJ pointed to multiple such
inconsistencies. For instance, the ALJ noted that at the
hearing Plaintiff reported her declining attention span was a
main barrier preventing employment Tr. 76. Plaintiff
testified that she was unable to work 40 hours per week, even
in a simple and routine job with no public interaction
“[b]ecause my attention span has greatly declined. . ..
my attention span is gone.” Tr. 151. The ALJ, however,
specifically noted Plaintiff's attention and
concentration had, outside of two discrete time periods,
generally improved. Tr. 77 (citing to tr. 825, 827, 829). The
ALJ also noted Plaintiff's symptoms stabilized when she
used her medications consistently. Tr. 77. Finally, the ALJ
considered an October 2012 evaluation by Barbara Stoner, M.S.
in anticipation of Plaintiff attending community college. Tr.