Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Fernando C. C. v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. Oregon

September 26, 2019

FERNANDO C. C., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF Social Security, Defendant.

          NANCY J. MESEROW Attorney for Plaintiff

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney RENATA GOWIE Assistant United States AttorneyMICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel BRETT E. ECKELBERG Special Assistant United States Attorney Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN, UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Fernando C. C. seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which the Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         For the reasons that follow, the Court REVERSES the decision of the Commissioner and REMANDS this matter to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings.

         ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

         On December 28, 2015, Plaintiff protectively filed his application for DIB benefits. Tr. 13, 153.[2] Plaintiff alleges a disability onset date of February 1, 2013. Tr. 13, 153. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on September 8, 2017. Tr. 33-58. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified at the hearing. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at the hearing.

         On November 16, 2017, the ALJ issued an opinion in which he found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 13-28. Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council. On August 23, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request to review the ALJ's decision, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-3. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         On September 28, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on April 23, 1980. Tr. 27, 153. Plaintiff was 37 years old on his alleged disability onset date. Plaintiff has at least a high-school education. Tr. 27. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a carpenter. Tr. 27.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Tr. 59.

         Except as noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. After carefully reviewing the medical records, this Court adopts the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. See Tr. 19-25.

         STANDARDS

         The initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012). To meet this burden, a claimant must demonstrate his inability "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). The ALJ must develop the record when there is ambiguous evidence or when the record is inadequate to allow for proper evaluation of the evidence. McLeod v. Astrue, 640 F.3d 881, 885 (9th Cir. 2011)(quoting Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459-60 (9th Cir. 2001)).

         The district 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 as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See also Brewes v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is "relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Molina, 674 F.3d. at 1110-11 (quoting Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 690 (9th Cir. 2009)). "It is more than a mere scintilla [of evidence] but less than a preponderance." Id. (citing Valentine, 574 F.3d at 690).

         The ALJ is responsible for evaluating a claimant's testimony, resolving conflicts in the medical evidence, and resolving ambiguities. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009). The court must weigh all of the evidence whether it supports or detracts from the Commissioner's decision. Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 528 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 2008). Even when the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must uphold the Commissioner's findings if they are supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record. Ludwig v. Astrue, 681 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2012). The court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1070 (9th Cir. 2006).

         DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         I. The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation

         At Step One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). See also Keyser v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011).

         At Step Two the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner determines the claimant does not have any medically severe impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1509, 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.

         At Step Three the claimant is disabled if the Commissioner determines the claimant's impairments meet or equal one of the listed impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724. The criteria for the listed impairments, known as Listings, are enumerated in 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 1 (Listed Impairments).

         If the Commissioner proceeds beyond Step Three, she must assess the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC). The claimant's RFC is an assessment of the sustained, work-related physical and mental activities the claimant can still do on a regular and continuing basis despite his limitations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). See also Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-8p. "A 'regular and continuing basis' means 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week, or an equivalent schedule." SSR 96-8p, at *1. In other words, the Social Security Act does not require complete incapacity to be disabled. Taylor v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 659 F.3d 1228, 1234-35 (9th Cir. 2011)(citing Fair v. Bowen, 885 F.2d 597, 603 (9th Cir. 1989)).

         At Step Four the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner determines the claimant retains the RFC to perform work he has done in the past. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.

         If the Commissioner reaches Step Five, she must determine whether the claimant is able to do any other work that exists in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724-25. Here the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show a significant number of jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant can perform. Lockwood v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 616 F.3d 1068, 1071 (9th Cir. 2010). The Commissioner may satisfy this burden through the testimony of a VE or by reference to the Medical-Vocational Guidelines (or the grids) set forth in the regulations at 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 2. If the Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g)(1).

         ALJ'S FINDINGS

         At Step One the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 1, 2013, Plaintiff's alleged disability onset date. Tr. 15.

         At Step Two the ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe impairments of "anxiety/posttraumatic stress disorder and depression." Tr. 15.

         At Step Three the ALJ concluded Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments do not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 1. Tr. 16. The ALJ found Plaintiff has the RFC to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with the following nonexertional limitations: he is limited to performing simple, repetitive, routine work with only occasional interaction with supervisors, coworkers, and the general public. Tr. 18.

         At Step Four the ALJ concluded Plaintiff is unable to perform his past relevant work. Tr. 27.

         At Step Five the ALJ found Plaintiff can perform other jobs that exist in the national economy such as janitor, floor waxer, and cafeteria attendant. Tr. 28. Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff is not disabled. Tr. 28.

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred when he failed (1) to conclude Plaintiff’s social anxiety disorder is a medically determinable and severe impairment at Step Two, (2) to provide clear and convincing reasons for rejecting Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony, and (3) to evaluate properly the medical opinions of Chandra M. Oleksiewicz, M.D., and Kimberly Humann, M.D., Plaintiff's treating psychiatrists; Kenneth Robertson, MSW, LCSW, Plaintiff's treating social worker; Daniel Scharf, Ph.D., an examining psychologist; and Scott F. Kaper, Ph.D., and Irmgard E. Friedburg, Ph.D., consultative psychologists.

         I. The ALJ did not err at Step Two when he found Plaintiff’s social anxiety disorder was not a severe impairment.

         Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred at Step Two when he found Plaintiff's social anxiety disorder was not a medically determinable impairment, and as a ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.