United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER 
MUSTAFA T. KASUBHAI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
E. (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of a final
decision by the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his claim for Title XVI
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381a and 1382c(a)(3)(A). This Court has
jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and §
1383(c)(3). For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is reversed and this case is
remanded for immediate calculation and award of benefits.
applied for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and SSI in December 2016, alleging
disability beginning January 1, 2010. Tr.
195-202; Pl. Br. 2, ECF No. 19. The agency denied
the claims both initially and upon reconsideration, and
Plaintiff requested a hearing. Tr. 125-44. He appeared for a
hearing before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
John Sullivan in December 2017. Tr. 30-64. At the hearing,
the ALJ dismissed Plaintiff's claim for DIB because
Plaintiff's date last insured preceded his alleged
disability onset date. Tr. 35-36. On January 17, 2018, the
ALJ issued a decision denying both of Plaintiff's claims
for benefits. Tr. 10-29. Plaintiff requested review of the
hearing decision, which the Appeals Council denied in March
2018. Tr. 1-6; 190-91. Thus, the ALJ's decision became
the final decision of the Commissioner, which Plaintiff now
appeals. Compl., ECF No. 1.
was thirty-four years old at the alleged onset date. Tr. 22,
Pl. Br. 3, ECF No. 19. Plaintiff “earned a modified
high school diploma through an Individualized Education
Program, ” and has no past relevant work experience.
Tr. 22, 38-39, Pl. Br. 3, ECF No. 19. Plaintiff has a history
of childhood abuse, diagnoses of Bipolar II disorder, anxiety
and panic disorders, major depression, post-traumatic stress
disorder, rule-out borderline intelligence, and rule-out
learning disorder. Tr. 1135-1139. Plaintiff's physical
diagnoses lumbar degenerative disc disease status
post-fusion, right shoulder degenerative joint disease, and
obesity. Tr. 15-16.
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); Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d
1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Magallanes v.
Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). “The
court must consider both evidence that supports and evidence
that detracts from the ALJ's conclusion; it may not
affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting
evidence.” Jones v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 993, 995
(9th Cir. 1985) (citing Vidal v. Harris, 637 F.2d
710, 712 (9th Cir. 1981); Day v. Weinberger, 522
F.2d 1154, 1156 (9th Cir. 1975)). “Where the evidence
as a whole can support either a grant or a denial, [this
Court] may not substitute [its] judgment for the
ALJ's.” Massachi v. Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149,
1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).
ALJ engages in a five-step sequential inquiry to determine
whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a). The five-step sequential inquiry
is summarized below, as described in Tackett v.
Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999).
One: The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is
engaged in substantial gainful activity. A claimant who is
engaged in such activity is not disabled. If the claimant is
not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner
proceeds to evaluate the claimant's case under step two.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b).
Two: The Commissioner determines whether the claimant
has one or more severe impairments. A claimant who does not
have any such impairment is not disabled. If the claimant has
one or more severe impairment(s), the Commissioner proceeds
to evaluate the claimant's case under step three. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(c).
Three: Disability cannot be based solely on a severe
impairment; therefore, the Commissioner next determines
whether the claimant's impairment “meets or
equals” one of the presumptively disabling impairments
listed in the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) regulations, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. A claimant who has an impairment that meets a
listing is presumed disabled under the Act. If the
claimant's impairments are not equivalent to one of the
enumerated impairments, between the third and fourth steps
the ALJ is required to assess the claimant's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”), based on all the
relevant medical and other evidence in the claimant's
record. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e). The RFC is
an estimate of the claimant's capacity to perform
sustained, work-related physical and/or mental activities on
a regular and continuing basis, despite limitations imposed
by the claimant's impairments. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.945; see also SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184.
Four: The Commissioner determines whether the claimant
is able to perform work he or she has done in the past. A
claimant who can perform past relevant work is not disabled.
If the claimant demonstrates he or she cannot do past
relevant work, the Commissioner's evaluation of
claimant's case proceeds under step five. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(e), 416.920(f).
Five: The Commissioner determines whether the claimant
is able to do any other work. A claimant who cannot perform
other work is disabled. If the Commissioner finds claimant is
able to do other work, the Commissioner must show that a
significant number of jobs exist in the national economy that
claimant is able to do. The Commissioner may satisfy this
burden through the testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”), or by reference to the Medical-Vocational
Guidelines, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2. If the
Commissioner demonstrates that a significant number of jobs
exist in the national economy that the claimant is able to
perform, the claimant is not disabled. If the Commissioner
does not meet the burden, the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R.
steps one through four of the sequential inquiry, the burden
of proof is on the claimant. Tackett, 180 F.3d at
1098. If the claimant satisfies his burden with respect to
the first four steps, the burden then shifts to the
Commissioner regarding step five. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(g). At step five, the Commissioner's burden is to
demonstrate that the claimant can make an adjustment to other
work after considering the claimant's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”), age, education, and work
found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of
the Act through June 30, 2005. Tr. 15. At step one of the
sequential analysis, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1,
2010, the alleged onset date. Tr. 15.
two, he found the following severe impairments: lumbar
degenerative disc disease status post fusion, obesity, major
depression, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, bipolar
disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”),
and right shoulder degenerative joint disease. Tr. 15-16.
three, he found that none of those severe impairments met or
equaled any impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. Tr. 17. The ALJ next assessed an RFC to
perform a range of sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(a) and 416.967(a). Specifically, the claimant can
lift and/or carry 10 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently. The claimant can stand and/or walk for two hours
out of an eight-hour workday with regular breaks. The
claimant can sit for six hours out of an eight-hour workday
with regular breaks. The claimant is unlimited with respect
to pushing and/or pulling, other than as indicated for
lifting and/or carrying. The claimant is limited to no more
than occasionally reaching overhead to the right. He can
handle items frequently with the left hand. The claimant can
climb ramps and stairs occasionally, never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds, stoop occasionally, kneel occasionally,
crouch occasionally, crawl occasionally. The claimant can
understand, remember & carryout simple, routine tasks.
The claimant is limited to simple work-related decisions. The
claimant is limited to occasional interaction with
supervisors, coworkers and the public. The claimant's
time off task can be accommodated by normal breaks.
to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had no past
relevant work experience. Tr. 22. At step five, he found that
Plaintiff retained the ability to perform the requirements of
jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy,
such as Touch Up Screener, PCB Assembly; Addresser; and Nut
Sorter. Tr. 22-23. The ALJ then found that Plaintiff had not
been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from January
1, 2010, the alleged onset date, through January 17, 2018,
the date of the ALJ's unfavorable decision (“the
relevant period”). Tr. 23.
seeks review by this Court asserting that the ALJ failed to
identify legally sufficient bases supported by substantial
evidence to 1) reject the opinion of examining doctor Scott
Alvord, PsyD; 2) reject the “other” medical
source opinion of Charles Race, PMHNP; 3) reject
Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony; and 4) reject
the lay testimony of Plaintiff's ex-wife. Pl. Br. 6-7,
ECF No. 19. The Plaintiff asks that the Court credit-as-true
these opinions, and in doing so, reverse the
Commissioner's decision and remand the case for benefits.
Id. at 16-17. Plaintiff contends that if the
opinions were credited as true, they would support a finding
that Plaintiff impairments preclude competitive employment as
testified to by the vocational expert at Plaintiff's
hearing. Id. at 8, 11, 15-16, 57-58. The
Commissioner responds that the ALJ met the legal requirements
needed to discount these opinions. Def. Br. 2-6, ECF No. 22.
For the reasons that follow, this Court finds ...