United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Aiken United States District Judge.
T. ("Plaintiff) brings this action pursuant to the
Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner").
The Commissioner denied Plaintiffs application for Disability
Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the
Act. For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's
decision is REVERSED and REMANDED for an immediate award of
filed an application for DIB in September of 2014 alleging
disability due to back injuries. Specifically, Plaintiff
alleged a compression fracture of the LI vertebra and a
fracture of the T12 vertebra, high blood pressure,
osteoporosis of the spine, chronic pain, and depression. The
application was initially denied and then again upon
reconsideration. Following a hearing, an Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ") found Plaintiff not disabled in a
written decision in June of 2017. The Appeals Council denied
review, and Plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint in this
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision so
long as 1) it is based on proper legal standards and 2) its
findings are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Berry v. Astrue, 622 F.3d 1228, 1231
(9th Cir. 2010). The district court reviews the record as a
whole, and must weigh both evidence that supports and
evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's
conclusion. Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995 (9th
Cir. 1985). If evidence presents the possibility for multiple
interpretations and the Commissioner's decision is
rational, the decision must be affirmed because "the
court may not substitute its judgment for that of the
Commissioner." Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d
1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).
initial burden of proof rests upon plaintiff to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, plaintiff must
demonstrate an "inability to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected . . . to
last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months[.J" 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process
for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S, 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4); id. § 416.920(a)(4). At step
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of
September 5, 2014. Tr. 22; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), (b); id. §§
416.920(a)(4)(i), (b). At step two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative
disc disease and compression fractures in the thoracic and
lumbar spine. Tr. 22; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), (c); id. §§
416.920(a)(4)(ii), (c). At step three, the ALJ found that
Plaintiffs impairments, whether considered singly or in
combination, did not meet or equal one of the listed
impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges are so severe
as to preclude substantial gainful activity. Tr. 23; 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), (d); id.
§§ 416.920(a)(4)(iii), (d).
found Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) except that Plaintiff could only
stand or walk for four hours in an eight-hour workday;
occasionally climb ramps and stairs; never climb ladders,
ropes or scaffolds; occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and
crawl; occasionally reach overhead bilaterally; avoid
exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and moving
mechanical parts; and must be provided with a sit/stand
option defined as the ability to change position after 30 to
60 minutes for three to five minutes while remaining on task.
Tr. 23; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), (f);
id. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(iv), (f).
four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was able to perform his past
relevant work as a service manager. Tr. 28. By finding
Plaintiff capable of performing his past relevant work, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled and did not
proceed to step five. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4);
id. § 404.1520(f).
alleges that the ALJ erred by (1) concluding that Plaintiff
could perform his past work; (2) discounting Plaintiffs
testimony about the severity of his symptoms; (3) rejecting
the medical opinion of Dr. Vanderburgh; and (4) rejecting the
lay witness testimony of Plaintiffs wife, friends, and former
Commissioner's brief does not contest any of these errors
but requests a remand for further proceeding because he
concedes that the ALJ erred at step four of the sequential
evaluation. This is because while the vocational expert
("VE") testified that Plaintiff was not capable of
performing his former job as a service manager as that job
was generally performed, the ALJ disagreed and found that
Plaintiff was capable of performing his past service manager
job. The ALJ ...