United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
MERRILL SCHNEIDER Schneider Kerr & Robichaux Of Attorney
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney RENATA GOWIE Assistant
United States Attorney
GOLDOFTAS Special Assistant United States Attorney Office of
the General Counsel Of Attorney for Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
V. ACOSTA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
S. ("Plaintiff) seeks judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration ("Commissioner") denying her
application for Disability Insurance Benefits
("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income
("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act ("Act"). This Court has jurisdiction
to review the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Based on a careful review of the
record, the Commissioner's decision is REVERSED and
REMANDED for further proceedings.
applied for DIB on December 4, 2013, alleging a disability
onset date of September 30, 2009 due to degenerative disc
disease with lumbar radiculitis; bilateral carpal tunnel
syndrome; conductive hearing loss in both ears; asthma;
depression; anxiety; and chronic fatigue. (Tr. 287-88, 426,
456.) She applied for SSI on January 21, 2014. (Tr. 289-94.)
Her applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 195-211.) Plaintiff requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), and
administrative hearings were held on January 13, 2017 and
July 18, 2017. (Tr. 40-68, 212-13.) ALJ Marilyn Mauer issued
a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled on August 14, 2017.
(Tr. 15-33.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request
for review on June 27, 2018, making the ALJ's decision
the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-6.) This
March 1969, Plaintiff was 40 years old on her alleged onset
date. (Tr. 287.) She has a GED. (Tr. 315.) Plaintiff
previously worked as a security guard, a manager in a group
home, and as a medication aide at an assisted living
facility. (Tr. 316.)
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) (quoting Consol.
Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The
court must weigh "both the evidence that supports and
detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusions."
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, [a court] may not substitute [its]
judgment for the ALJ's." Massachi v.
Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation
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 sequential 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. At step one, the Commissioner
determines whether the claimant is engaged in
"substantial gainful activity." Yuckert,
482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
416.920(b). If so, she is not disabled.
two, the Commissioner evaluates 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). If the claimant
does not have a severe impairment, she is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's
impairments, either individually or in combination, meet or
equal "one of a number of listed impairments that the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity." Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
If so, she is presumptively disabled; if not, the
Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant can
still perform "past relevant work." 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f). If the claimant can
perform past relevant work, she is not disabled; if she
cannot, the burden shifts to the Commissioner.
five, the Commissioner must establish the claimant can
perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
national or local economy. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at
141-42; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g). If
the Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.
performed the sequential analysis. At step one, the ALJ found
Plaintiff had not engaged in SGA since the alleged onset
date, September 30, 2009. (Tr. 17.) At step two, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease, mild to moderate narrowing at
¶ 5-S1; fibromyalgia; asthma; morbid obesity; anxiety
disorder; depression; and post-traumatic stress disorder
traits. (Tr. 18.) At step three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met
or medically equaled a listed impairment. Id.
next determined Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with ...