United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division
OPINION AND ORDER
YIM YOU, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
(“plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the final
decision by the Social Security Commissioner
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”)
under the Social Security Act (“SSA”). This court
has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3).
For the reasons set forth below, that decision is REVERSED
and REMANDED for immediate calculation and payment of
filed an application for SSI on February 11, 2014, alleging
disability beginning on August 17, 1989. Tr. 11.
Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and on
reconsideration. Tr. 67, 79. Plaintiff requested a hearing
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), which
was held on January 23, 2017. Tr. 39-59. Plaintiff was
represented by counsel, and the ALJ took testimony from
plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”).
Following the hearing, the ALJ issued a decision finding
plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr.
15-28. After the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this
court. Tr. 1-6. The ALJ's decision is therefore the
Commissioner's final decision subject to review by this
court. 20 C.F.R. § 422.210.
August 1989, plaintiff was 27 years old at the time of the
ALJ hearing. Tr. 43. Plaintiff is a high school graduate and
has no past relevant work history. Tr. 43-44. Plaintiff
alleges she is unable to work due to a combination of the
following impairments: obesity, learning disorder in reading,
dementia due to head trauma, unspecified anxiety disorder,
depression, lumbar and thoracic spondylosis, menorrhagia,
hypothyroidism, atopic dermatitis, uterine polyp, gestational
diabetes, mild thoracic scoliosis, and hearing loss. Tr. 17.
ANALYSIS AND ALJ FINDINGS
is the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death,
or 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). The ALJ engages in a five-step
sequential inquiry to determine whether a claimant is
disabled within the meaning of the Act. This sequential
analysis is set forth in Social Security Administration
regulations, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920, in
Ninth Circuit case law, Lounsburry v. Barnhart, 468
F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006) (discussing Tackett v.
Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999)), and in
the ALJ's decision in this case, Tr. 15-17.
one, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the application date,
February 11, 2014. Tr. 17.
two, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has the following
severe impairments: obesity, learning disorder in reading,
dementia due to head trauma, unspecified anxiety disorder,
depression, and spondylosis of the lumbar and thoracic spine.
three, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled
any listed impairment. Tr. 18. The ALJ next assessed
plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) and found that she could perform medium
work with the following limitations:
She can lift, carry, push, and pull 50 pounds occasionally
and 25 pounds frequently. She can stand and/or walk for about
6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and she can sit for about 6
hours in an 8-hour workday, with normal breaks. She can have
no exposure to moving mechanical parts and unprotected height
hazards. She is limited to understanding, remembering, and
carrying out simple, routine and repetitive instructions that
can be learned in 30 days or less. She needs instructions
verbally and by demonstration. She is limited to few changes
in work setting and work duties and no conveyor belt paced
work. She can have no public contact and only occasional
direct coworker interaction.
four, the ALJ determined that plaintiff has no past relevant
work. Tr. 26.
five, the ALJ determined that considering plaintiff's
age, education, work experience, RFC, and the testimony of a
vocational expert (VE), she could perform jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy, including hand
packager, laundry worker, and kitchen helper. Tr. 27.
the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not disabled between
February 11, 2014, the date on which the application was
filed, through the date of the decision, March 17, 2017. Tr.
reviewing 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. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Lewis v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 909, 911
(9th Cir. 2007). This court must weigh the evidence that
supports and detracts from the ALJ's conclusion.
Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th
Cir. 2007) (citing Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715,
720 (9th Cir. 1998)). The reviewing court may not substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Ryan v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 528 F.3d 1194, 1205 (9th
Cir. 2008) (citing Parra v. Astrue, 481 F.3d 742,
746 (9th Cir. 2007)); see also Edlund v.
Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001). Where
the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be
upheld if it is “‘supported by inferences
reasonably drawn from the record.'” Tommasetti
v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d
1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004)); see also
Lingenfelter, 504 F.3d at 1035.
Subjective Symptom Testimony
alleges that the ALJ wrongfully discounted her subjective
symptom testimony. When a claimant has medically-documented
impairments that could reasonably be expected to produce some
degree of the symptoms complained of, and the record contains
no affirmative evidence of malingering, “the ALJ can
reject the claimant's testimony about the severity of . .
. symptoms only by offering specific, clear and convincing
reasons for doing so.” Smolen v. Chater, 80
F.3d 1273, 1281 (9th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). A general
assertion that the claimant is not credible is insufficient;
the ALJ must “state which . . . testimony is not
credible and what evidence suggests the complaints are not
credible.” Dodrill v. Shalala, 12 F.3d 915,
918 (9th Cir. 1993). The reasons proffered must be
“sufficiently specific to permit the reviewing court to
conclude that the ALJ did not arbitrarily discredit the
claimant's testimony.” Orteza v. Shalala,
50 F.3d 748, 750 (9th Cir. 1995) (internal citation omitted).
If the “ALJ's credibility finding is supported by
substantial evidence in the record, [the court] may not
engage in second-guessing.” Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 959 (9th Cir. 2002) (citation
March 28, 2016, the Commissioner superseded Social Security
Ruling (“SSR”) 96-7p, governing the assessment of
a claimant's “credibility, ” and replaced it
with SSR 16-3p. See SSR 16-3p, available
at2016 WL 1119029. SSR 16-3p eliminates the reference to
“credibility, ” clarifies that “subjective
symptom evaluation is not an examination of an
individual's character, ” and requires the ALJ to
consider all of the evidence in an individual's record
when evaluating the intensity and persistence of symptoms.
Id. at *1-2. The ALJ must examine “the entire
case record, including the objective medical evidence; an
individual's statements about the intensity, persistence,
and limiting effects of symptoms; statements and other
information provided by medical sources and other persons;
and any other relevant evidence in the individual's case
record.” Id. at *4.
discounted plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony based
on inconsistent statements regarding her social ...