United States District Court, D. Oregon
J. Meserow, Attorneys for Plaintiff.
J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Janice E. Hebert,
Assistant United States Attorney, United States
Attorney’s Office, Heather L. Griffith, Special
Assistant United States Attorney, Office of General Counsel,
Social Security Administration, Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael H. Simon United States District Judge.
B. (“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”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(the “Act”). For the following reasons, the
Commissioner’s decision is REVERSED and REMANDED for
district court must affirm the Commissioner’s decision
if it is based on the proper legal standards and the findings
are supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); see also Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501
(9th Cir. 1989). “Substantial evidence” means
“more than a mere scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Bray v. Comm ’r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995)). It means “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quoting Andrews, 53
F.3d at 1039).
the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, the Commissioner’s conclusion must be
upheld. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th
Cir. 2005). Variable interpretations of the evidence are
insignificant if the Commissioner’s interpretation is a
rational reading of the record, and this Court may not
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. See
Batson v. Comm ’r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d
1190, 1193, 1196 (9th Cir. 2004). “[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) (quoting Robbins v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (quotation
marks omitted)). A reviewing court, however, may not affirm
the Commissioner on a ground upon which the Commissioner did
not rely. Id; see also Bray, 554 F.3d at 1226.
filed an application for DIB on June 2, 2014, alleging
disability beginning on May 30, 2014. AR 18, 75, 85, 90, 186.
Plaintiff was born in June 1951 and was 63 years old as of
the alleged disability onset date. AR 156. She alleged
disability due to lumbar and cervical spine disorders,
including scoliosis, cervical spondylosis, degenerative disc
disease, osteoarthritis, demineralization of the spine,
kyphosis, Klippel-Feil syndrome, and status post cervical
fusion at ¶ 1-C3. AR 186. The Commissioner denied
Plaintiffs application initially and upon reconsideration. AR
102-06. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). AR 125-26. In a
decision dated March 10, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision
finding Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 16-26. The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiffs request for review, making the
ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
AR 1-6; see also 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(a).
Plaintiff seeks judicial review of that decision. This Court
has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
The Sequential Analysis
claimant is disabled if he or she is unable to “engage
in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment 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). “Social Security Regulations set out a
five-step sequential process for determining whether an
applicant is disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act.” Keyser v. Comm ’r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011); see
also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). Each step is
potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). The
five-step sequential process asks the following series of
1. Is the claimant performing “substantial gainful
activity?” 20 C.F.R.§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i). This
activity is work involving significant mental or physical
duties done or intended to be done for pay or profit. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1510. If the claimant is performing such
work, she is not disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is not
performing substantial gainful activity, the analysis
proceeds to step two.
2. Is the claimant’s impairment “severe”
under the Commissioner’s regulations? 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). An impairment or combination of
impairments is “severe” if it significantly
limits the claimant’s physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(a). Unless
expected to result in death, this impairment must have lasted
or be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12
months. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1509. If the claimant does not
have a severe ...