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Jeremiah P. J v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

June 3, 2019

JEREMIAH P. J., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          KATHERINE EITENMILLER BRENT WELLS Harder Wells Baron & Manning Attorneys for Plaintiff

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney RENATA GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney

          MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel KATHERINE B. WATSON Social Security Administration Office of the General Counsel Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Jeremiah P. J. seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Titles XVI and II of the Social Security Act.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner and DISMISSES this matter.

         ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed his applications for SSI and DIB on June 19, 2014. Tr. 167-72.[2] Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of January 2, 2014. His applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on October 31, 2016. Tr. 45-72. At the hearing Plaintiff amended his onset date for his DIB application to December 31, 2009. Tr. 53. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney.

         On December 22, 2016, the ALJ issued an opinion on Plaintiff's SSI application in which she found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 33-44. On December 28, 2016, the ALJ issued an opinion on Plaintiff's DIB application in which she found Plaintiff was not disabled before his date last insured, and, therefore, he is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 36-40. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.984(d), those decisions became the final decisions of the Commissioner on January 8, 2018, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-7. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on April 20, 1979. Tr. 167. Plaintiff was 37 years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff graduated from high school with a “modified diploma.” Tr. 472. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a security officer. Tr. 22.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to a developmental disability, cerebral palsy, spinal-cord damage, high blood pressure, gout, plantar fasciitis, asthma, and hearing problems. Tr. 73.

         Except 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. 19-21.

         STANDARDS

         The 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 his 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. 2001)).

         The 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).

         The ALJ 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. 2006).

         DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         I. The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation

         At Step One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(I), 416.920(a)(4)(I). See also Keyser ...


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