United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
F. BECKERMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
V. (“Plaintiff”) brings this appeal challenging
the Commissioner of Social Security's
(“Commissioner”) denial of her application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
1381-1383f. The sole issue presented on appeal is whether the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in his
evaluation of the medical evidence. The Court has
jurisdiction to hear this appeal pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1383(c)(3), which incorporates the review provisions of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons explained below, the
Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.
September 1964, Plaintiff was 44 years old on her alleged
onset date. (Tr. 54.) She has a high school education and
past work experience as an activities director, a florist, a
housekeeper, and a sales associate. (Tr. 167.)
applied for DIB on May 9, 2014, alleging disability beginning
January 31, 2009 due to an anxiety disorder and depression.
(Tr. 54, 145, 149.) Her claim was denied initially and on
reconsideration. (Tr. 86, 92.) Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, which was held on May 9, 2017. (Tr.
written decision issued on April 26, 2017, the ALJ applied
the five-step evaluation process set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4), and determined that Plaintiff was not
disabled. (Tr. 16-28.) The Social Security Administration
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's petition for review,
making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final
decision. Plaintiff timely appealed to federal court.
FIVE-STEP SEQUENTIAL ANALYSIS I.LEGAL STANDARD
claimant is considered disabled if he or she is unable 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). “Social Security
Regulations set out a five-step sequential process for
determining whether an applicant is disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act.” Keyser v.
Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir.
2011). Those five steps are: (1) whether the claimant is
currently engaged in any substantial gainful activity; (2)
whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the
impairment meets or equals a listed impairment; (4) whether
the claimant can return to any past relevant work; and (5)
whether the claimant is capable of performing other work that
exists in significant numbers in the national economy.
Id. at 724-25. The claimant bears the burden of
proof for the first four steps. Bustamante v.
Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th Cir. 2001). If the
claimant fails to meet the burden at any of those steps, the
claimant is not disabled. Id.; Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-41 (1987).
Commissioner bears the burden of proof at step five of the
process, where the Commissioner must show the claimant can
perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy, “taking into consideration the
claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education,
and work experience.” Tackett v. Apfel, 180
F.3d 1094, 1100 (9th Cir. 1999). If the Commissioner fails to
meet this burden, the claimant is disabled.
Bustamante, 262 F.3d at 954 (citations omitted).
applied the five-step sequential evaluation process to
determine if Plaintiff is disabled. (Tr. 19-28.) At step one,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since January 31, 2009, the
alleged onset date. (Tr. 19.) At step two, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of major depressive
disorder, panic disorder, and bipolar disorder. (Tr. 20.) At
step three, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment that meets or equals a listed impairment. (Tr.
21.) The ALJ then concluded that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full
range of work at all exertional levels with the following
limitations: she can perform simple, routine tasks and make
simple work-related decisions; she can frequently, but not
continuously, respond appropriately to coworkers,
supervisors, and the general public; and time off-task would
be accommodated by normal breaks. (Tr. 22.) At step four, the
ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was able to perform her past
relevant work as a housekeeping cleaner. (Tr. 27.) The ALJ
therefore concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district court may set aside a denial of benefits only if the
Commissioner's findings are “‘not supported
by substantial evidence or [are] based on legal
error.'” Bray v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th
Cir. 2006)). Substantial evidence is defined as
“‘more than a mere scintilla [of evidence] but
less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a