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Jeffery D v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

September 5, 2019

JEFFERY D., Plaintiff,


          Mustafa T. Kasubhai United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Jeffery D. (“Plaintiff') brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner's”) decision denying his application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). This court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.


         Plaintiff applied for SSI on September 6, 2014 alleging disability beginning November 1, 2012. Tr. 13.[1] His claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an ALJ and appeared before the Honorable Katherine Weatherly on April 25, 2017. Tr. 29-50. ALJ Weatherly denied Plaintiff's application in a written decision dated July 24, 2017. Tr. 13-23. Plaintiff sought review from the Appeals Council, which was denied, rendering the ALJ's decision final. Tr. 1-6. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review.


         A reviewing court shall affirm the Commissioner's decision if the decision is based on proper legal standards and the legal findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). “Substantial evidence is ‘more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Sandgathe v. Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997)). To determine whether substantial evidence exists, a court reviews the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and that which detracts from the ALJ's conclusion. Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323, 326 (9th Cir. 1989).


         The Social Security Administration utilizes a five-step sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to meet the first four steps. Id. If the claimant satisfies her burden with respect to the first four steps, the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five. Id.; see also Johnson v. Shalala, 60 F.3d 1428, 1432 (9th Cir. 1995). At step five, the Commissioner must show that the claimant is capable of making an adjustment to other work after considering the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the Commissioner fails to meet this burden, then the claimant is disabled. Id. If, however, the Commissioner proves that the claimant is able to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy, the claimant is not disabled. Id.; see also Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th Cir. 2001).

         In the present case, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. Tr. 15. At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: morbid obesity; diabetes mellitus Type II; obstructive sleep apnea (OSA); depressive disorder versus bipolar I disorder; anxiety disorder; psychotic disorder not otherwise specified; history of cannabis abuse; degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and thoracic spine; and gastroesophageal reflux disease status post gastrointestinal bleed. Id.

         At step three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled the requirements of a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Tr. 16. Prior to step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's RFC allowed him to perform work with the following limitations:

[he can] lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; he can stand and/or walk for two hours out of an eight-hour workday with regular breaks; he can sit for six hours out of an eight-hour workday with regular breaks; [he can perform] frequent climbing of ramps and stairs and occasional climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolding. The claimant is able to understand, remember and carry out simple routine repetitive tasks with no more than occasional contact with the general public.

Tr. 17. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work as a landscape laborer. Tr. 21. At step five the ALJ found that, based on Plaintiff's age, education, work experience and RFC, Plaintiff could perform the representative occupations of bench assembler, electrical accessories assembler, and printed circuit layout paper. Tr. 22-23. As a result, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 23.

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by: (I) erroneously discounting Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony; (II) rejecting the medical opinion of Collin Lynn, M.D.; (III) improperly evaluating his obesity; and (IV) reopening his prior application.

         I. Subjective ...

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