United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Yim You, United States Magistrate Judge
A. (“plaintiff”), seeks judicial review of the
final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his application for
Title II Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
and Title XVI Social Security Income (“SSI”)
under the Social Security Act (“Act”). This court
has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
Because the Commissioner's decision is not supported by
substantial evidence, it is REVERSED and REMANDED for further
1964, plaintiff was 51 years old on the alleged onset date.
Tr. 66. Plaintiff has past relevant work as a concrete mixer
driver, delivery truck driver, sheriff's deputy, and dump
truck driver. Tr. 27.
has been diagnosed with hypertension, type II diabetes with
peripheral neuropathy, severe alcohol use disorder,
depression, hyperlipidemia, sleep apnea, obesity, and
post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). Tr. 476,
512-13, 520, 937, 943, 1116, 1149, 1353.
has reported that the sole cause of his PTSD was a traumatic
event during his Navy Seal training in which he drowned and
had to be resuscitated. Tr. 929. However, as a child,
plaintiff suffered from extreme emotional and physical abuse
from his father. Tr. 1207. Therefore, Dr. Schlievert has
opined that plaintiff's PTSD is related to his childhood
abuse, his Navy Seal training, and his work as a
sheriff's deputy. Tr. 930. The VA has determined that
plaintiff is 100% disabled due to his PTSD. Tr. 934.
Schlievert concluded that plaintiff's alcohol abuse was a
result of his PTSD and that plaintiff used alcohol to manage
his anxiety. Tr. 906. Plaintiff reported that he drank a
fifth of vodka every day for over thirty years. Tr. 529.
filed applications for DIB and SSI on January 11, 2016,
alleging disability beginning October 1, 2015. Tr. 14.
Plaintiff's claims were initially denied on June 29,
2016, and upon reconsideration on October 14, 2016.
Id. A hearing was held before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) on June 8, 2017, in which the
plaintiff testified, as did a vocational expert
(“VE”). Tr. 35-60. On August 31, 2017, the ALJ
issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled within the
meaning of the Act. Tr. 14-28. After the Appeals Council
denied his request for review, plaintiff filed a complaint in
this court. Tr. 2-7. The ALJ's decision is therefore the
Commissioner's final decision subject to review by this
court. 20 C.F.R. § 422.210.
reviewing 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. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Lewis v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 909, 911
(9th Cir. 2007). This court must weigh the evidence that
supports and detracts from the ALJ's conclusion and
“‘may not affirm simply by isolating a specific
quantum of supporting evidence.'” Garrison v.
Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009-10 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th
Cir. 2007)). The reviewing court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the Commissioner when the evidence can
reasonably support either affirming or reversing the
decision. Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746 (9th
Cir. 2007). Instead, where the evidence is susceptible to
more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's
decision must be upheld if it is “supported by
inferences reasonably drawn from the record.”
Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir.
2008) (citation omitted); see also
Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d at 1035.
ANALYSIS AND ALJ FINDINGS
is the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
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 engages in a five-step sequential
inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled within
the meaning of the Act. This sequential analysis is set forth
in the Social Security regulations, 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920, in Ninth Circuit case law, Lounsburry
v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006)
(discussing Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99
(9th Cir. 1999)), and in the ALJ's decision in this case,
one, the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity after October 1, 2015. Tr. 16.
two, the ALJ found plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: obstructive sleep apnea, congestive heart
failure, hypertension, type II diabetes with neuropathy,
PTSD, major depressive disorder, and alcohol use disorder.
three, the ALJ found plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a
listed impairment. Tr. 17. The ALJ next assessed
plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) and determined that he could perform
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b)
and 416.967(b), except he must avoid exposure to workplace
hazards such as heights and heavy machinery, he can
understand, remember, and carry out simple, routine,
repetitive tasks, and he can have no more than occasional
contact with the general public and coworkers. Tr. 19.
four, the ALJ found plaintiff was unable to perform his past
relevant work as a concrete mixer, delivery truck driver,
sheriff's deputy, or dump truck driver. Tr. 26-27.
five the ALJ determined plaintiff could perform jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy,
including photocopy machine operator, office ...