United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Yim You, United States Magistrate Judge.
T. (“plaintiff”), seeks judicial review of the
final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying plaintiff's
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).
Commissioner has filed a motion to remand, in which she
concedes that the ALJ erred in assessing the medical opinion
evidence, but argues that a remand for proceedings, rather
than a remand for benefits, is the proper remedy. Def. Br.
2-3, ECF #21. The motion is granted to the extent the
Commissioner seeks a remand; however, because the
Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence, the case is REVERSED and REMANDED for the immediate
calculation and payment of benefits.
1960, plaintiff was 53 years old on the alleged onset date.
Tr. 79. Plaintiff has past relevant work as a registered
nurse, certified nurse's assistant, ward clerk, hospice
nurse, and nursing supervisor. Tr. 31-32.
has been diagnosed with chronic back pain, radicular pain,
lumbar stenosis with instability, advanced degenerative disc
disease, extreme lumbar decompression, anxiety, Type II
diabetes, adjustment disorder, and failed back surgery
syndrome. Tr. 562, 712, 723-24, 729, 873, 1009, 1022, 1033,
had a failed back surgery in 2010. Tr. 432. In September
2014, plaintiff underwent an anterior interbody fusion at
¶ 3-L4. Tr. 889. That surgery also failed, and plaintiff
needed corrective surgery, which was performed in November
2015. Tr. 850, 858, 1004, 1037. The corrective surgery also
was unsuccessful in resolving plaintiff's back pain. Tr.
860, 867-69, 1040.
filed applications for DIB and SSI on March 12, 2014,
alleging disability beginning February 26, 2014. Tr. 19.
Plaintiff's claims were initially denied on May 15, 2014,
and upon reconsideration on September 3, 2014. Id. A
hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on July 12, 2016, in which plaintiff
testified, as did a vocational expert (“VE”). Tr.
40-76. On September 8, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision
finding plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
Tr. 19-34. After the Appeals Council denied her request for
review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this court. Tr. 1-6.
The ALJ's decision is therefore the Commissioner's
final decision subject to review by this court. 20 C.F.R.
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 that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since ...