United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
E. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
V. (Plaintiff) seeks judicial review of the final decision by
the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying
her application for disability insurance benefits under Title
II of the Social Security Act (the Act). This court has
jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Because the
Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence, I REVERSE and REMAND for an immediate calculation
and award of benefits.
was born in 1974. Tr. 25. She worked from 1998 to 2004 as an
officer with the Lincoln City Police, and from 2004 to 2006
as a detective with the West Linn Police Department. Tr. 163.
Plaintiff alleges that she has been disabled since October
2006 from a combination of impairments, including shoulder
injuries, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, migraines, and the
side-effects of medications. Tr. 15. Because Plaintiff was
insured for disability benefits under the Act until December
31, 2012, she must show that she was disabled on or before
that date to be entitled to benefits. Tr. 13.
the agency denied Plaintiffs claim for disability benefits,
Plaintiff received a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) in February 2017. Tr. 32-51. In May 2017, the ALJ
issued his decision, finding Plaintiff not disabled. Tr.
13-26. In December 2017, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiffs request for review. Tr. 1-3. Plaintiff then timely
filed this action seeking judicial review of the denial of
reviewing court must affirm the Commissioner's decision
if it is based on proper legal standards and 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 and '"may not affirm
simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting
evidence.'" Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F, 3d
995, 1009-10 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Lingenfelter v.
Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007)). When the
evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, the court must uphold the Commissioner's
decision if it is "supported by inferences reasonably
drawn from the record." Tommasetti v. Astrue,
533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). The
reviewing court may not affirm the Commissioner's
decision based on a ground that the agency did not invoke in
making its decision. Stout v. Comm'r, 454 F.3d
1050, 1054 (9th Cir. 2006).
ALJ'S FINDINGS ON THE FIVE-STEP SEQUENTIAL
defines "disability" as 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). To determine
whether a claimant is disabled, the ALJ uses a five-step
sequential inquiry. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Lounsburry v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d
1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006).
at step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity from the alleged onset date in
October 2006 through the date she was last insured, December
31, 2012. Tr. 15.
two, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical and
lumbar spine; rotator cuff syndrome of the left shoulder,
status post surgical interventions; degenerative joint
disease of the right shoulder, status post surgical
interventions; epilepsy; fibromyalgia; and systemic lupus
erythematosus. Tr. 15.
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a
listed impairment. Tr. 18. The ALJ then assessed Plaintiffs
residual functional capacity (RFC), finding Plaintiff could
perform sedentary work as defined by 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(a), subject to the following limitations:
she could lift ten pounds occasionally and less than ten
pounds frequently, carry ten pounds occasionally and less
than ten pounds frequently. She could push and pull as much
weight as she could lift and carry, but pushing and pulling
[is] limited to occasional bilaterally. She could sit up to
six hours in an eight-hour day. She could stand and walk up
to six hours total in an eight-hour day. She was limited to
occasional overhead reaching bilaterally. She was precluded
from [climbing] ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She was
precluded from [working] around hazards. such as unprotected
heights or heavy moving machinery, and operating a motor
four, the AL J found Plaintiff could not perform her past
relevant work as a police officer. Tr. 24-25.
five, the burden of proof shifts from the claimant to the
Commissioner. Bustamonte v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949,
953-54 (9th Cir. 2001). The Commissioner must show at step
five that the claimant can perform other work that exists in
significant numbers in the national economy, considering the
claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience.
Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1100 (9th Cir.
1999). Here, at step five the ALJ found Plaintiff could
perform sedentary jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy, including document preparer and
information clerk. Tr. 25. The ALJ therefore found Plaintiff
was not disabled at any time from October 19, 2006, the
alleged onset date, through December 31, 2012, the date
Plaintiff was last insured. Tr. 26.
argues that (1) the ALJ erred in evaluating the medical
opinion of Dr. Sue Lewis; and (2) the ALJ improperly
discounted Plaintiffs subjective symptom testimony.
The ALJ's Assessment of Dr. Sue Lewis's Medical
contends that the ALJ erred in giving little weight to the
opinion of Dr. Sue Lewis, an internist who was Plaintiffs
primary care physician throughout the relevant period. The
ALJ noted Dr. Lewis's opinion that Plaintiff "would
have likely been off task 80-90% of the workday and would
have missed more than two workdays per month on an ongoing
basis during the relevant period," but found that Dr.
Lewis's opinion was "not consistent with the medical
evidence of record, which documented good activities of daily