United States District Court, D. Oregon
KATHERINE L. EITENMILLER, Harder, Wells, Baron & Manning,
P.C. Attorneys for Plaintiff.
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney, RENATA GOWIE Assistant
United States Attorney, MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief
Counsel, ALEXIS L. TOMA Special Assistant United States
Attorney Social Security Administration Attorneys for
OPINION AND ORDER
J. BROWN UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE.
Molly Ann S. seeks judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA)
in which the Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications
for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review
the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
reasons that follow, the Court REVERSES the
decision of the Commissioner and REMANDS
this matter pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) for the immediate calculation and payment of benefits.
March 17, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed her application
for SSI benefits. Tr. 21, 168-78. Plaintiff alleged a
disability onset date of May 1, 2010. Tr. 21, 168.
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on
reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a
hearing on November 1, 2016. Tr. 21, 41-82. Plaintiff, a
vocational expert (VE), and a medical expert testified at the
hearing. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. At the
hearing Plaintiff amended her alleged disability onset date
to March 17, 2014. Tr. 21, 46.
December 7, 2016, the ALJ issued a partially favorable
decision in which she found Plaintiff became disabled and is
entitled to benefits starting on June 2, 2015. The ALJ, however,
found Plaintiff was not disabled and not entitled to benefits
between March 17, 2014 and June 2, 2015. Tr. 21, 29.
December 21, 2016, Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals
Council. Tr. 166-67. On January 29, 2018, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request to review the ALJ's
decision, and the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-3. See Sims v.
Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
April 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court
seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.
was born on June 3, 1960. Tr. 168. Plaintiff was 55 years old
on her disability onset date of June 2, 2015. Tr. 27.
Plaintiff has at least a high-school education. Tr. 27, 200.
Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a babysitter,
grounds guard, and clean-up worker. Tr. 50-52, 74.
alleges disability due to a broken tailbone, back problems,
anxiety, and depression. Tr. 84.
as 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. 25-27.
initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish
disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110
(9th Cir. 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, 459B60 (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 evaluating a claimant's testimony,
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).
The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation
One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity (SGA). 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(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. §
416.920(a)(4)(ii). See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.
Three the claimant is disabled if the Commissioner determines
the claimant's impairments meet or equal one of the
listed impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges are so
severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)(4)(iii). See also Keyser, 648 F.3d
at 724. The criteria for the listed impairments, known as
Listings, are enumerated in 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P,
appendix 1 (Listed Impairments).
Commissioner proceeds beyond Step Three, she must assess the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC). The
claimant's RFC is an assessment of the sustained,
work-related physical and mental activities the claimant can
still do on a regular and continuing basis despite her
limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e). See also
Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-8p. A A 'regular and
continuing basis' means 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week,
or an equivalent schedule." SSR 96-8p, at *1. In other
words, the Social Security Act does not require complete
incapacity to be disabled. Taylor v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 659 F.3d 1228, 1234-35 (9th Cir.
2011)(citing Fair v. Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 603 (9th
Four the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant retains the RFC to perform work she
has done in the past. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv).
See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.
Commissioner reaches Step Five, she must determine whether
the claimant is able to do any other work that exists in the
national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v). See
also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724-25. Here the burden shifts
to the Commissioner to show a significant number of jobs
exist in the national economy that the claimant can perform.
Lockwood v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 616 F.3d
1068, 1071 (9th Cir. 2010). The Commissioner may satisfy this
burden through the testimony of a VE or by reference to the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines (or the grids) set forth in the
regulations at 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 2. If
the Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(g)(1).
One the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since May 1, 2010, Plaintiff's ...