United States District Court, D. Oregon
ELENA I. S.,  Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. RUSSO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Elena S. brings this action for judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her applications for
Title II Disability Insurance Benefits and Title XVI
Supplemental Security Income. All parties have consented to
allow a Magistrate Judge enter final orders and judgement in
this case in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case is
April 2014, plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging
disability as of April 28, 2006, due to bilateral carpal
tunnel, asthma, arthritis, lumbago, varicose veins in both
legs, left shoulder rotator cuff syndrome, back injury,
neuropathy, osteochondroma, headaches, and irregular
heartbeat. Tr. 113-14. Born in 1963, plaintiff was 42 years
old as of the alleged onset date. Tr. 113.
had previously applied for benefits. On April 14, 2010, an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued a
partially favorable decision, finding that plaintiff was
disabled for a closed period beginning on April 28, 2006, and
ending on April 28, 2009. Tr. 91. The previous ALJ's
decision was based on the severe impairments of degenerative
disc disease, asthma, minimal partial tear of the medial
collateral ligament, and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome;
however, the latter was no longer a severe impairment after
April 28, 2009, due to medical improvement. Tr. 91, 94, 100.
November 16, 2016, a hearing was held before another ALJ
based on plaintiff's 2014 applications, wherein plaintiff
was represented by counsel and testified, as did a vocational
expert (“VE”). Tr. 44-85. On December 16, 2016,
the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled from
April 25, 2010, the day after the issuance of the prior
ALJ's decision, through the date of the decision in
question. Tr. 21-37. After the Appeals Council denied her
request for review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this
Court. Tr. 1-6.
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. Hammock
v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and internal
quotations omitted). The court must weigh “both the
evidence that supports and detracts from the
[Commissioner's] conclusions.” Martinez v.
Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). Variable
interpretations of the evidence are insignificant if the
Commissioner's interpretation is rational. Burch v.
Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).
initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant 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.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process
for evaluating whether a person is disabled. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. First, the Commissioner
determines whether a claimant is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity.” Yuckert,
482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
416.920(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled.
two, the Commissioner evaluates whether the claimant has a
“medically severe impairment or combination of
impairments.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If the claimant
does not have a severe impairment, she is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's
impairments, either singly or in combination, meet or equal
“one of a number of listed impairments that the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity.” Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d),
416.920(d). If so, the claimant is presumptively disabled; if
not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner resolves whether the claimant can
still perform “past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f). If the claimant can
work, she is not disabled; if she cannot perform past
relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. At step
five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can
perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
national or local economy. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at
141-42; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g). If
the Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.