United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. MCSHANE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Katie J. brings this action for judicial review of the
Commissioner of Social Security's
(“Commissioner”) decision denying her
applications for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”). This court has
jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c).
For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's final
decision is reversed and remanded for the immediate payment
March 1975, Plaintiff was 16 years old on her alleged onset
date of June 15, 1991. Tr. 225. She was 43 years old at the time
of the administrative hearing. Tr. 41. She has a high school
education, a doula certification, and past work experience in
various jobs including concession worker and fabric cutter.
Tr. 317. She alleged disability due to Wegener's
granulomatosis, shingles, depression, HBP, and back
issues. Tr. 316.
February 3, 2015, Plaintiff filed her applications for SSI
and DIB. Tr. 217, 223. Both claims were denied initially and
upon reconsideration. Tr. 145, 150-60. Plaintiff timely
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) and appeared for a hearing on May 26,
2017. Tr. 41-78. In a written decision dated July 21, 2017
the ALJ amended Plaintiff's alleged onset date to March
3, 1993 and denied Plaintiff's applications. Tr. 19-34.
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's subsequent
petition for review, rendering the ALJ's decision final.
Tr. 1-7. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review.
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 that which detracts from the ALJ's
conclusion. Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323, 326 (9th
Social Security Administration utilizes a five-step
sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is
disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4) (2012). The burden of proof rests upon the
claimant at steps one through four, and with the Commissioner
at step five. Id.; Bustamante v. Massanari,
262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Tackett v.
Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999)). At step
five, the Commissioner must demonstrate 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, 262 F.3d at 953-54.
performed the sequential evaluation. At step one, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff had not performed substantial gainful
activity since March 3, 1993, her amended alleged onset date.
Tr. 22. At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the severe
impairments of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine
and bursitis of the knee. Id. At step three, the ALJ
found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or equaled the requirements of the
listings. Tr. 27; 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
to step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's RFC
allowed a full range of medium work at all exertional levels.
Tr. 27. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had no
past relevant work because, while she had held various jobs,
she had never performed substantial gainful activity. Tr.
28-33. At step five, the ALJ found that based on
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC,
jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy
such that Plaintiff could sustain substantial gainful
employment despite her impairments. Tr. 33. Specifically, the
ALJ found Plaintiff could perform the occupations of
industrial cleaner, hospital cleaner, and hand packager. Tr.
34. As a result, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Act. Id.
contends the ALJ erred by: (I) failing to credit the medical
opinion of treating rheumatologist James Rosenbaum, M.D.;
(II) failing to provide clear and convincing reasons to
reject her subjective symptom testimony; (III) failing to
supply germane reasons for rejecting the lay testimony; (IV)
failing to find her Wegener's granulomatosis and herpes
zoster to be “severe” at step two; and (V)
erroneously concluding at step five that she could perform
“other work” in the national economy.
first argues that the ALJ erroneously rejected the opinion of
her treating rheumatologist James Rosenbaum, M.D.
“There are three types of medical opinions in social
security cases: those from treating physicians, examining
physicians, and non-examining physicians.”
Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d
685, 692 (9th Cir. 2009). “Where a treating or
examining physician's opinion is contradicted by another
doctor, the ‘[ALJ] must determine credibility and
resolve the conflict.'” Id. (citation
omitted). “An ALJ may only reject a treating
physician's contradicted opinions by providing
‘specific and legitimate reasons that are supported by
substantial evidence.'” Ghanim v. Colvin,
763 F.3d 1154, 1161 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Ryan v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir.
ALJ can satisfy the ‘substantial evidence'
requirement by ‘setting out a detailed and thorough
summary of the facts and conflicting clinical evidence,
stating his interpretation thereof, and making
findings.'” Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d
995, 1012 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 725 (9th Cir. 1998)). Merely
stating conclusions is insufficient: “The ALJ must do
more than state conclusions. He must set forth his own
interpretations and explain why they, rather than the
doctors', are correct.” Id. “[A]n
ALJ errs when he rejects a medical opinion or assigns it
little weight while doing nothing more than ignoring it,
asserting without explanation that another medical opinion is