United States District Court, D. Oregon
KATHLEEN R. DENT, Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP, DANIEL S. JONES
Law Offices of Charles E. Binder and Harry J. Binder, LLP,
Attorneys for Plaintiff.
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney, RENATA GOWIE Assistant
United States Attorney.
MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel, MARTHA A.
BODEN Special Assistant United States Attorney Social
Security Administration, Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
J. BROWN UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE.
Valerie Joan B. seeks judicial review of a final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA)
in which she denied Plaintiff's application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the
Social Security Act.
reasons that follow, the Court REVERSES the
Commissioner's decision and REMANDS this
matter pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
for further proceedings.
filed an application for DIB on July 8, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of June 1, 2014. Tr.
370-71.The application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a
hearing on March 24, 2017. Tr. 235-59. At the hearing
Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. Plaintiff and a
vocational expert (VE) testified.
issued a decision on May 17, 2017, in which she found
Plaintiff was not disabled before her December 31, 2016, date
last insured and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr.
35-54. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.984(d), that decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner on March 27,
2018, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review. Tr. 4-9. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S.
103, 106-07 (2000).
was born on May 29, 1963, and was 53 years old at the time of
the hearing. Tr. 370. Plaintiff completed an Associates
Degree. Tr. 428. The ALJ found Plaintiff has past relevant
work experience as a front-desk clerk and janitor. Tr. 45.
alleges disability during the relevant period due to back
pain, leg pain, fibromyalgia, and depression. Tr. 260.
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. 43-45.
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 her 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.
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).
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.
The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation
Commissioner has developed a five-step sequential inquiry to
determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning
of the Act. Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742, 746
(9th Cir. 2007). See also 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520. Each step is potentially dispositive.
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). See also
Keyser v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 648 F.3d 721, 724
(9th Cir. 2011).
Two the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant does not have any medically severe
impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R.