United States District Court, D. Oregon
EDIE C. W.,  Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
M. EVANS Evans & Evans, P.C. Attorneys for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney
GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney
MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel
L. TOMA Special Assistant United States Attorney Social
Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
J. BROWN, UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE
Edie C. W. 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 Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II 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 for further administrative proceedings.
29, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed her application for
DIB benefits. Tr. 22, 154-55. Plaintiff alleges a disability
onset date of August 20, 2013. Tr. 22, 154. Plaintiff's
application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on June 22,
2017. Tr. 43-68. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE)
testified at the hearing. Plaintiff was represented by an
attorney at the hearing.
August 7, 2017, the ALJ issued an opinion in which she found
Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to
benefits. Tr. 22-36.
September 27, 2017, Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals
Council. Tr. 150. On May 22, 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).
25, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court seeking
review of the Commissioner's decision.
was born on December 28, 1961. Tr. 154. Plaintiff was 51
years old on her alleged disability onset date. Plaintiff has
a high-school education, was licensed as a Certified Nurse
Assistant, and earned a Medical Assistant license. Tr. 48-49,
172. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a medical
assistant. Tr. 34.
alleges disability due to fibromyalgia, chronic widespread
pain, migraines, Graves Disease, hypothyroidism, depression,
anxiety/panic attacks, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD),
and chronic fatigue. Tr. 71.
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. 29-34.
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, 459-60 (9th Cir. 2001)).
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. § 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. §
404.1509, 404.1520(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.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). See also Keyser, 648
F.3d at 724. The criteria for the listed impairments, ...