United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
PATRICIA SULLIVAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Lori W. seeks judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("Commissioner") denying her application for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB") 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). All parties
have consented to allow a Magistrate Judge to enter final
orders and judgment in this case in accordance with Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 73 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
See (Docket No. 6). For the reasons that follow, the
Commissioner's final decision is AFFIRMED and this case
filed an application for DIB on May 6, 2015, alleging a
disability onset date as of October 1, 2014. Tr. 13,
151-54. Her application was denied initially
and upon reconsideration. Tr. 80, 93. Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"),
and a hearing was held on November 17, 2016. Tr 30-51, 106.
On March 10, 2017, an ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff
not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 13-24. The
Appeals Council denied plaintiffs request for review on
January 29, 2018, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-6. This appeal followed.
1956, plaintiff was 57 years old on her alleged onset date
and 60 years old on the date of her hearing. Tr. 34, 71, 151.
She completed the twelfth grade and has past work experience
as an administrative clerk, sales clerk, semiconductor
assembler, manager of a lodging facility, kitchen helper, and
waitress. Tr. 23, 177; see also Tr. 35-54, 61-62.
She alleges disability based upon heart problems, high blood
pressure, a 2009 heart attack, and clogged arteries in her
neck. Tr. 176. Plaintiff is married and lives with her
spouse. Tr. 198, 467.
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 omitted).
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.
one, the ALJ found that plaintiff met the insured
requirements of the Act and had engaged in substantial
gainful activity in one quarter since May 2, 2014, the
alleged onset date. Tr. 15. The ALJ also found that plaintiff
worked after the alleged onset date. Id. However,
because the ALJ found there was a "valid basis for
denying [plaintiffs] application," he proceeded through
the remaining steps of the sequential analysis. Id.
At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had had the
following severe impairments: carotid artery disease, lumbar
and cervical radiculopathy, osteoarthritis of both hips,
coronary disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
("COPD"). 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. 18. The
ALJ found that plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work,
with the following limitations: she could frequently climb
ramps and stairs and occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; she could occasionally be exposed to extreme cold
and vibration; and she was limited to occasional exposure to
hazards such as unprotected heights and moving mechanical
parts. Tr. 19. At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff
could perform her past relevant work as an administrative
clerk and ...