United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
AIKEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
O. (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to
the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”).
The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) on July 25,
2016. For the reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the
applied for DIB on May 28, 2013. Following denials at the
initial and reconsideration levels, an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”) held two hearings and issued an
unfavorable decision on July 25, 2016. After the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, Plaintiff
filed a complaint in this Court on September 4, 2018 seeking
review of the ALJ's decision.
U.S.C. § 405(g) provides for judicial review of the
Social Security Administration's disability
determinations: “The court shall have power to enter .
. . a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or
without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” In
reviewing the ALJ's findings, district courts act in an
appellate capacity not as the trier of fact. Fair v.
Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 604 (9th Cir. 1989). The district
court must affirm the ALJ's decision unless it contains
legal error or lacks substantial evidentiary support.
Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir.
2014) (citing Stout v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 454
F.3d 1050, 1052 (9th Cir. 2006)). Harmless legal errors are
not grounds for reversal. Burch v. Barnhart, 400
F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). “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.” Gutierrez v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 740 F.3d 519, 522 (9th Cir.
2014) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The
complete record must be evaluated and the evidence that
supports and detracts from the ALJ's conclusion must be
weighed. Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th
Cir. 2001). If the evidence is subject to more than one
interpretation but the Commissioner's decision is
rational, the Commissioner must be affirmed, because
“the court may not substitute its judgment for that of
the Commissioner.” Edlund v. Massanari, 253
F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).
initial burden of proof rests upon the Plaintiff to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the Plaintiff must
demonstrate an “inability to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected . . . to
last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
determine whether a claimant is disabled, an ALJ is required
to employ a five-step sequential analysis, determining:
“(1) whether the claimant is ‘doing substantial
gainful activity'; (2) whether the claimant has a
‘severe medically determinable physical or mental
impairment' or combination of impairments that has lasted
for more than 12 months; (3) whether the impairment
‘meets or equals' one of the listings in the
regulations; (4) whether, given the claimant's
‘residual functional capacity,' the claimant can
still do his or her ‘past relevant work' and (5)
whether the claimant ‘can make an adjustment to other
work.'” Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104,
1110 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting 20 C.F.R. §§
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of
disability through the date she was last insured. At step
two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
limitations: “degenerative disc disease; cervicalgia;
fibromyalgia; psychotic disorder; anxiety; and adjustment
disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).” Tr. 22. At step three,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
requirements of a listed impairment.
then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); §
416.920(e). The ALJ found that Plaintiff
has the [RFC] to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(b). She could lift and/or carry 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently in an eight-hour
workday. She could stand and/or walk for six hours and sit
for six hours in an eight-hour workday. She could perform
simple routine repetitive tasks consistent with unskilled
work. She could perform low-stress work, which is defined as
work that required only few decisions and changes throughout
the workday. She could have occasional contact with
co-workers. She could have occasional superficial contact
with the public.
Tr. 25. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could not
perform any past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ
considered Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and RFC and found that there were other jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
could perform, including hand packager and ...