United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER
AIKEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Rebekah H, 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 Plaintiffs application for Disability Insurance
Benefits ("DIB"). For the reasons set forth below,
the Commissioner's decision is REVERSED and REMANDED for
172013, plaintiff filed for DIB with a date last insured of
September 30, 2015. In her applications, plaintiff alleged
disability beginning on March 1, 2012 due to a combination of
physical impairments, including migraine headaches;
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, status post
lumbar discectomy and decompression; degenerative disc
disease and spondylosis of the cervical spine; bilateral hip
osteoarthritis, status post bilateral hip arthroplasties;
osteoarthritis of the left wrist; and left carpal tunnel
claims were denied initially on October 17, 2013, and upon
reconsideration on April 23, 2014. On May 15, 2014, plaintiff
filed a written request for hearing before an Administrative
Law Judge ("ALJ"). An administrative hearing was
held on April 20, 2016, where plaintiff was represented by
counsel. Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE")
offered testimony. The ALJ found plaintiff not disabled in a
written decision issued on May 17, 2016. After the Appeals
Council denied review, plaintiff filed the present complaint
in this Court.
district court must affirm the ALJ's decision unless it
contains legal error or is not supported by substantial
evidence." Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995,
1009 (9th Cir. 2014) (citing Stout v. Comm'r, Soc.
Sec, Admin., 454 F.3d 1050, 1052 (9th Cir. 2006)).
Harmless legal errors are not grounds for reversal. Stout
v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 454 F.3d 1050, 1054
(9th Cir. 2006) (citing 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
court must evaluate the complete record and weigh "both
the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts
from the ALJ's conclusion." 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).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process
for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4); id. § 416.920(a)(4). At step
one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in
"substantial gainful activity" since the alleged
onset date of March 1, 2012 through the date last insured.
Tr. 22. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), (b);
id §§ 416.920(a)(4)(i), (b). At step two,
the ALJ found that plaintiff had severe impairments of
"degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spinal area;
spondylosis of the cervical spinal area; migraine headaches;
osteoarlhritis of the bilateral hips, status post bilateral
hip arthroplasties; osteoarthritis of the left wrist; and
left carpal tunnel syndrome" Tr. 22. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), (c); id.
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(ii). At step three, the ALJ
determined plaintiffs impairments, whether considered singly
or in combination, did not meet or equal "one of the
listed impairments" that the Commissioner acknowledges
are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity.
Tr. 23. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), (d);
id. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(iii), (d).
then assessed plaintiffs residual functional capacity
("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); id.
§ 416.920(e). The ALJ found that plaintiff
has the RFC to lift and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally
and ten pounds frequently, stand and/or walk up to two hours
in an eight-hour workday, and sit up to six hours in an
eight-hour workday, with no more than occasional climbing of
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; no more than frequent climbing
of ramps or stairs; and no more than frequent kneeling,
crouching, or crawling.
24-25. At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff was
"capable of performing past relevant work as a
receptionist" and thus was not disabled under the Act.
Tr. 32 The ALJ did not proceed to Step Five. Accordingly, the
ALJ found that ...