United States District Court, D. Oregon
J. Wall, Of Attorneys for Plaintiff.
J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Renata Gowie,
Assistant United States Attorney, United States
Attorney's Office, Michael Howard, Special Assistant
United States Attorney, Office of General Counsel, Social
Security Administration, Of Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL H. SIMON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Sandra W. seeks judicial review of the final decision by the
Social Security Commissioner (“Commissioner”)
denying Plaintiff's application for Social Security
Disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under 42
U.S.C. §§ 416 and 423. This Court has jurisdiction
to review the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Because Plaintiff's date last
insured was June 30, 2019, Plaintiff must establish
disability on or before that date in order to be entitled to
a period of disability and disability insurance benefits.
After carefully reviewing the ALJ's decision and the
evidence in the record, the Court affirms the decision of the
district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if
it is based on the proper legal standards and the findings
are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); see also Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501
(9th Cir. 1989). “Substantial evidence” means
“more than a mere scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Bray v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995)). It means “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quoting Andrews, 53
F.3d at 1039).
the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, the Commissioner's conclusion must be
upheld. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th
Cir. 2005). Variable interpretations of the evidence are
insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is a
rational reading of the record, and this Court may not
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. See
Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190,
1193, 1196 (9th Cir. 2004). “[A] reviewing court must
consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm
simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting
evidence.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630
(9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Robbins v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (quotation
marks omitted)). A reviewing court, however, may not affirm
the Commissioner on a ground upon which the Commissioner did
not rely. Id.; see also Bray, 554 F.3d at
was born on August 12, 1964 and was 49 years old at the
alleged disability onset date. Plaintiff has at least a high
school education, is able to communicate in English, and
previously worked as a retail store manager and a
salesperson. AR 35. Plaintiff previously filed for DIB on
January 20, 2006. A determination that Plaintiff was not
disabled, made on February 9, 2006, became administratively
final when Plaintiff did not appeal that determination. AR
21. Plaintiff filed a second DIB application as well as an
SSI application on December 18, 2007. Id. Both
applications were denied on March 26, 2008 and became
administratively final when Plaintiff did not appeal.
Plaintiff filed a third application for DIB on July 25, 2011.
Id. This application was also denied and, on appeal,
an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) determined
that Plaintiff was nod disabled in a written opinion on
November 14, 2013. That decision became administratively
final when Plaintiff did not appeal the ALJ's decision.
filed her current application for DIB and SSI on October 3,
2014, alleging disability beginning November 15, 2013. The
claims were denied initially on January 13, 2015 and upon
reconsideration on July 23, 2015. Plaintiff filed a written
request for a hearing before an ALJ. A hearing was held on
March 29, 2017. Plaintiff testified and was represented by
counsel. An impartial medical expert, Dr. Ronald Devere, MD
and an impartial vocational expert, Dr. Robert Gaffney, also
testified. On May 8, 2017, the ALJ issued a written decision
denying Plaintiff's applications. AR 38. Plaintiff sought
review by the Appeals Council, but the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on April 4, 2018, making
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. AR 1. Plaintiff seeks judicial review of that
The Sequential Analysis
claimant is 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); see
also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 (DIB), 416.920
(SSI); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987).
Each step is potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The five-step sequential
process asks the following series of questions:
1. Is the claimant performing “substantial gainful
activity?” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i),
416.920(a)(4)(i). This activity is work involving significant
mental or physical duties done or intended to be done for pay
or profit. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1510, 416.910. If the
claimant is performing such work, she is not disabled within
the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is not
performing substantial gainful activity, the analysis
proceeds to step two.
2. Is the claimant's impairment “severe”
under the Commissioner's regulations? 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). An
impairment or combination of impairments is
“severe” if it significantly limits the
claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1521(a), 416.921(a).
Unless expected to result in death, this impairment must have
lasted or be expected to last for a continuous period of at
least 12 months. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509, 416.909. If
the claimant does not have a severe impairment, the ...