United States District Court, D. Oregon
Sherwood J. Reese and Drew L. Johnson, Drew L. Johnson, P.C.,
Of Attorneys for Plaintiff.
J. Williams, United States Attorney, and Renata Gowie,
Assistant United States Attorney, United States
Attorney’s Office, ; Michael S. Howard, Special
Assistant United States Attorney, Office of General Counsel,
Social Security Administration, . Of Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael H. Simon, United States District Judge
H. (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying
Plaintiff’s application for supplemental security
income (“SSI”). After Plaintiff filed her opening
brief (ECF 15), the Commissioner filed a response in which he
conceded error by the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) and moved to remand the case for further
administrative proceedings. ECF 19. Plaintiff replied,
arguing that the case should instead be remanded for a
finding of disability and the immediate payment of benefits.
ECF 20. For the following reasons, the court remands for
further administrative proceedings.
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
protectively applied for both disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and SSI on May 31, 2013, alleging a
disability onset date of December 31, 2010. AR 199, 200.
Plaintiff was born on September 26, 1964; she was 46 on the
alleged disability onset date and is now 55 years old. AR
date last insured is June 30, 2013; thus for purposes of her
DIB application, Plaintiff must establish disability on or
before that date. AR 200. For purposes of her SSI
application, however, Plaintiff need not show disability on
or before her date last insured. The Commissioner denied
Plaintiff’s application initially and upon
reconsideration. AR 113, 121. Plaintiff then requested a
hearing before an ALJ. AR 124. After a hearing, the ALJ ruled
that Plaintiff is not disabled. AR 12-25. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff’s request for review, making the
ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
AR 1. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of that decision.
The ALJ’s Decision
engaged in the appropriate sequential analysis in this case.
First, he found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since December 31, 2010, the alleged
disability onset date. AR 17. At step two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff suffered from polysubstance abuse in remission,
major depressive disorder, and schizoaffective disorder, and
found that these constituted severe impairments. Id.
At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff’s
impairments did not meet or medically equal the severity of
one of the listed impairments in the regulations. AR 17-18.
The ALJ next assessed Plaintiff’s RFC. The ALJ found
that Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform a full range
of work at all exertional levels, but that she could not
tolerate exposure to hazards, such as machinery and
unprotected heights. AR 20. The ALJ also found that due to
pain, side effects of medications, and mental impairments,
Plaintiff could understand, remember, and carry out only
short and simple instructions; could only make simple
work-related judgments and decisions; could have no more than
occasional contact with the public; and could have no more
than [in]frequent interactive contact with coworkers or
four, the ALJ determined that considering Plaintiff’s
RFC, she was able to perform past relevant work as a
cleaner/housekeeper. AR 23. The ALJ also determined, based on
the testimony of a vocational expert, that Plaintiff could