United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
AMOS A. C., Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Mustafa T. Kasubhai United States Magistrate Judge.
Amos A. C. brings this action for judicial review of the
Commissioner of Social Security's
(“Commissioner's”) decision denying his
application for Disability Insurance Benefits under the
Social Security Act (the “Act”). This Court has
jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c).
Both parties consent to jurisdiction by a U.S. Magistrate
reasons discussed below, the Court remands for the immediate
calculation and award of benefits.
applied for Disability Insurance Benefits on September 24,
2014, alleging disability beginning June 20, 1987. Tr. 72.
His claims were initially denied and Plaintiff timely
requested and appeared for a hearing before Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) Steven A. De Mondbreum on April
18, 2017. Id. During the hearing, Plaintiff's
attorney amended the onset date of disability to September
24, 2014 (“AOD”). Tr. 72, 214. The ALJ denied
Plaintiff's application in a written decision dated June
21, 2017. See Tr. 72-88. Plaintiff sought review
from the Appeals Council. See Tr. 6-63. The Appeals
Council denied review of the ALJ's decision, rendering
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Tr. 1-4. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of
reviewing court shall affirm the Commissioner's decision
if the decision is based on proper legal standards and the
legal findings are supported by substantial evidence in the
record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004).
“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.'” Hill v. Astrue,
698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Sandgathe v.
Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997)). To determine
whether substantial evidence exists, a court reviews the
administrative record as a whole, “weighing both the
evidence that supports and detracts from the ALJ's
conclusion.” Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323,
326 (9th Cir. 1989).
Social Security Administration utilizes a five-step
sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is
disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
416.920. The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant
to meet the first four steps. Id. If the claimant
satisfies his burden with respect to the first four steps,
the burden shifts to the commissioner at step five.
Id.; see also Johnson v. Shalala, 60 F.3d
1428, 1432 (9th Cir. 1995). At step five, the Commissioner
must show that the claimant is capable of making an
adjustment to other work after considering the claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”), age,
education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v) & 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the Commissioner
fails to meet this burden, then the claimant is disabled.
Id. If, however, the Commissioner proves that the
claimant is able to perform other work existing in
significant numbers in the national economy, the claimant is
not disabled. Id.; see also Bustamante v.
Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th Cir. 2001).
present case, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled.
At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the amended onset date of
September 24, 2014. Tr. 74. At step two, the ALJ found
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: bilateral
carpal tunnel syndrome; nonischemic cardiomyopathy status
post internal cardiac defibrillator (ICD) placement; diabetes
type I; Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease; right eye blindness;
history of borderline intelligence; unspecified depression;
anxiety disorder not otherwise specified; and panic attacks
as a reaction to stress. Id. At step three, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or equaled the
requirements of a listed impairment in 20 CFR Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1 (“Listings”). Tr. 76.
to step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) that allowed
him to perform light work. Tr. 78. Specifically, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff can:
lift/carry, including upward pulling, ten pounds frequently
and twenty pounds occasionally. He is able to stand and/or
walk for two hours total in an eight-hour workday with normal
breaks. He is able to sit for six or more hours total in an
eight-hour workday with normal breaks. He is able to perform
work limited to frequent bilateral handling and fingering. He
is able to perform work limited to occasional climbing of
ramps or stairs, but can never climbing [sic]
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He is able to perform work
limited to frequent kneeling, crouching, crawling, and/or
stooping. He must have no exposure to hazards, such as
dangerous machinery and unprotected heights. He is able to
perform work limited to only simple, easy to learn, routine,
unskilled work with a Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT)
General Education Development (GED) reasoning level of two or
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has no past relevant work.
Tr. 86. At step five, the ALJ found that there are jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff can perform based on his age, education, work
experience, and RFC, such as escort vehicle driver, assembler
small products I, electronic assembler, and food checker. Tr.
seeks review by this Court contending that (1) the ALJ erred
in finding that Plaintiff did not meet the requirement of the
Listings - specifically 4.02 - at step three; (2) the ALJ
failed to address Dr. Puckett's November 2016 opinion
classifying Plaintiff as New York Heart Association
(“NYHA”) “Class II with recent III
symptoms;” (3) the ALJ failed to provide legally
sufficient reasons to reject Dr. Balm's opinion; and (4)
the ALJ erred in rejecting Plaintiff's subjective
complaints. Pl.'s Br. 2 (ECF No. 14).
response the Commissioner only addresses Plaintiff's
contention regarding the ALJ's error at step three and
“denies any arguments not specifically
addressed.” See generally, Def.'s Br. (ECF
No. 17). The Commissioner concedes that the ALJ erred in
evaluating Plaintiff's case “because the ALJ likely
did not consider all of the probative evidence, ” but
objects to a reversal for an immediate calculation of
benefits. Id. Instead, the Commissioner requests a
remand for further administrative proceedings. Id.
Listed Impairments at Step Three
claimant is disabled if his impairments meet or equal one of
the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. 20 C.R.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii),
416.920(a)(4)(iii). Chronic heart failure (“CHF”)
is a listed impairment. 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1,
are two main types of CHF:
(i) Predominant systolic dysfunction (the inability of the
heart to contract normally and expel sufficient blood), which
is characterized by a dilated, poorly contracting left
ventricle and reduced ejection fraction (abbreviated EF, it
represents the percentage of the blood in the ventricle
actually pumped out with each contraction), and
(ii) Predominant diastolic dysfunction (the inability of the
heart to relax and fill normally), which is characterized by
a thickened ventricular muscle, poor ability of the left
ventricle to distend, increased ventricular filling pressure,
and a normal or increased EF.
20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, 4.00D1a.
The required level of severity for [the Listing 4.02 CHF]
impairment is met when the requirements in both A and B are
Medically documented presence of one of the following:
1. Systolic failure (see 4.00D1a(i)), with left ventricular
end diastolic dimensions greater than 6.0 cm or ejection
fraction of 30 percent or less during a period of stability
(not during an episode of acute heart failure); or
B. Resulting in one of the ...