United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
PATRICIA SULLIVAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Aunjell H. brings this action pursuant to the Social Security
Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to
obtain judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”). The Commissioner partially
denied plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Act. 42
U.S.C. § 401 et seq. For the following reasons,
this case is REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings
consistent with this Opinion and Order.
protectively filed for DIB on July 30, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of April 28, 2013. Tr. 15,
154-55. These claims were denied initially on
October 14, 2014, and upon reconsideration on February 9,
2015. Tr. 71-96. Plaintiff subsequently requested a hearing,
which was held on December 12, 2016, before Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) David Johnson. Tr. 31-70.
Plaintiff appeared and testified at the hearing, represented
by counsel; a vocational expert (“VE”), Ms.
Gears, also testified. Id. On August 1, 2017, the
ALJ issued decision denying Plaintiff's claim. Tr. 15-25.
Plaintiff requested Appeals Council review, which was denied
June 1, 2018. Tr. 1-6. Plaintiff then sought review before
was born in February 1982. Tr. 184. Plaintiff experiences
disc degeneration, radiculopathy, spondylosis, asthma,
osteoarthritis, discectomy, laminectomy, and disc
bulge/herniation. Tr. 465, 600-01, 903, 907, 992, 995, 1065,
1134. She stopped working on April 28, 2013, due to her
conditions. Tr. 71. Plaintiff completed her GED and
previously worked as a collector, nurse assistant, general
clerk, furniture salesperson, and fast food worker. Tr. 58,
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) (quotation omitted).
The court must weigh “both the evidence that supports
and detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusion.”
Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir.
1986). “Where the evidence as a whole can support
either a grant or a denial, [the court] may not substitute
[its] judgment for the ALJ's.” Massachi v.
Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation
omitted); see also Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676,
680-81 (9th Cir. 2005) (holding that the court “must
uphold the ALJ's decision where the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation”).
“[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) (quotation
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 process for
determining 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”; if so, the
claimant is not disabled. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140;
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). At step two,
the Commissioner determines 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). A severe
impairment is one “which significantly limits [the
claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities[.]” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) &
416.920(c). If not, the claimant is not disabled.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141. At step three, the
Commissioner determines whether the impairments meet or equal
“one of a number of listed impairments that the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity.” Id.; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is
conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the analysis
proceeds. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
point, the Commissioner must evaluate medical and other
relevant evidence to determine the claimant's
“residual functional capacity”
(“RFC”), an assessment of work-related activities
that the claimant may still perform on a regular and
continuing basis, despite any limitations his impairments
impose. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 404.1545(b)-(c),
416.920(e), 416.945(b)-(c). At the fourth step, the
Commissioner determines whether the claimant can perform
“past relevant work.” Yuckert, 482 U.S.
at 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If
the claimant can work, he is not disabled; if he cannot
perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 146 n.5. At step
five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can
perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy. Id. at 142; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the
Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.
first found that plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Act through December 31, 2018. Tr. 17. At
step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability
onset date. Id. At step two, the ALJ found that
plaintiff had these severe: radiculopathy, spondylosis, disc
herniation, and asthma. Id. At step three, the ALJ
found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination thereof that met or equaled a listed impairment.
Tr. 19. The ALJ then found that plaintiff had the RFC to
perform medium work with the following limitations: she
cannot lift or carry more than 25 pounds occasionally; she
cannot perform more than occasional stooping, crouching, or
climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she cannot have
concentrated exposure to extreme cold; and she cannot be
exposed to pulmonary irritants. Id. At step four,
the ALJ found plaintiff unable to perform her past relevant
work. Tr. 23. At step five, considering ...