United States District Court, D. Oregon
Richard F. McGinty, McGinty & Belcher, Of Attorneys for
J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Renata Gowie
Assistant United States Attorney, United States
Attorney's Office, Alexis L. Toma, 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.
C. (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying
Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) pursuant to the Social Security Act. For
the following reasons, the Commissioner's decision is
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
filed an application for DIB and SSI on October 10, 2013. AR
13. Plaintiff alleges disability beginning on October 10,
2013. Plaintiff was born on June 27, 1969 and was 42 years
old on the alleged disability onset date. Plaintiff alleged
disability due to obesity, degenerative joint disease of the
right knee, depression, anxiety, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (“COPD”), cognitive disorder,
post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder with
agoraphobia, back pain, neuropathic pain, atrial
fibrillation, and hypertension. AR 16. Plaintiff's claims
were denied initially, on May 8, 2014, and upon
reconsideration on August 21, 2014. AR 13. Plaintiff filed a
written request for a hearing, and a hearing was held on
October 18, 2016. Plaintiff appeared and testified, as did
Robert Gaffney, an impartial vocational expert. A
supplemental hearing took place on May 10, 2017, at which
Plaintiff, John B. Nance, an impartial medical expert, and
Paul K. Morrison, an impartial vocational expert, all
testified. AR 13. On May 31, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision
finding Plaintiff not disabled. AR 28. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the commissioner. AR
1-4. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of that decision.
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 ...