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Amy D v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

June 25, 2019

AMY D., [1] Plaintiff,
Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          BRIAN SCOTT WAYSON Cascadia Disability Law LLC Attorneys for Plaintiff

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney RENATA GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel SARAH ELIZABETH MOUM Special Assistant United States Attorney Social Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant



         Plaintiff Amy D. 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.

         For the 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.


         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on June 4, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2013. Tr. 231-37.[1] The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on December 19, 2016. Tr. 62-91. At the hearing Plaintiff amended her disability onset date to June 15, 2014. Tr. 65. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at the hearing. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified. The ALJ held a supplemental hearing on June 5, 2017, at which a medical expert (ME) and VE testified.

         The ALJ issued a decision on June 22, 2017, in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled from June 15, 2014, through the date of the ALJ's decision and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 23-38. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.984(d), that decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on June 19, 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).


         Plaintiff was born on January 24, 1962; was 54 years old at the time of the first hearing; and was 55 years old at the time of the supplemental hearing. Tr. 231. Plaintiff has a college degree. Tr. 28. The ALJ found Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a controller and financial director. Tr. 36.

         Plaintiff alleges disability during the relevant period due to depression, “short-term memory problems, ” post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), migraines, sleeping problems, arthritis, and Hashimoto's disease. Tr. 93-94.

         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. 30-34.


         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 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. 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 ...

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