United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Aiken, United States District Judge
W. ("Plaintiff) brings this action under 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 applications for
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and Disability
Insurance Benefits ("DIB") on July 25, 2016 and
July 28, 2016, respectively. For the reasons below, the Court
AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.
applied separately for SSI and DIB in November 2014.
Following denials at the initial and reconsideration levels,
an administrative law judge ("ALJ") held hearings
and issued unfavorable decisions in July 2016. After the
Appeals Council denied his request for review, Plaintiff
filed a timely complaint in this Court seeking review of the
U.S.C. § 405(g) provides for judicial review of the
Social Security Administration's disability
determinations: "The court shall have power to enter . .
. a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without
remanding the cause for a rehearing." In reviewing the
ALJ's findings, district courts act in an appellate
capacity not as the trier of fact. Fair v. Bowen,
885 F.2d 597, 604 (9th Cir. 1989). The district court must
affirm the ALJ's decision unless it contains legal error
or lacks substantial evidentiary support. Garrison v.
Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014) (citing
Stout v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 454 F.3d 1050, 1052
(9th Cir. 2006)). Harmless legal errors are not grounds for
reversal. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th
Cir. 2005). "Substantial evidence is more than a mere
scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion." Gutierrez v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec, 740 F.3d 519, 522 (9th Cir. 2014) (citation
and internal quotation marks omitted). The complete record
must be evaluated and the evidence that supports and detracts
from the ALJ's conclusion must be weighed. Mayes v.
Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th Cir. 2001). If the
evidence is subject to more than one interpretation but the
Commissioner's decision is rational, the Commissioner
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 on a claimant to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, a claimant must show 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[.]" 42 U.S.C. §
determine whether a claimant is disabled, an ALJ must employ
a five-step sequential analysis, determining: "(1)
whether the claimant is 'doing substantial gainful
activity'; (2) whether the claimant has a 'severe
medically determinable physical or mental impairment' or
combination of impairments that has lasted for more than 12
months; (3) whether the impairment 'meets or equals'
one of the listings in the regulations; (4) whether, given
the claimant's 'residual functional capacity,'
the claimant can still do his or her 'past relevant
work' and (5) whether the claimant 'can make an
adjustment to other work.'" Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a)).
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity from his alleged onset date of
October 16, 2009 through his date of last insured of December
31, 2010 for his DIB application. The ALJ also found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity for
his SSI application since November 12, 2013. At step two, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe impairment of
degenerative disc disease. At step three, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the requirements of
a listed impairment.
then assessed Plaintiffs residual functional capacity
("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); §
416.920(e). The ALJ found that Plaintiff
has the [RFC] to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(b) in which he lifts and carries up to 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; sits, stands, or walks
for six hours each in an eight hour day; occasionally climbs
ramps or stairs; never climbs ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
frequently balances; occasionally kneels, stoops, or
crouches; never crawls; and has no more than occasional
exposure to vibrations and hazards such as dangerous moving
machinery and unprotected heights.
Tr. 26. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could not
perform past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ found that
there were other jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy that Plaintiff could perform, including
office helper, photocopy machine operator, and ticket ...