United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
AIKEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Malaki B. brings this action pursuant to the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain judicial review of
the final decision of the Commission of Social Security
("Commissioner"). The Commissioner denied
Plaintiffs claim for Supplemental Security Income
("SSI"). For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
March 19, 2013, plaintiff applied for SSI. She alleged
disability due to moderate degenerative disc disease that
began in 2010. Plaintiff appeared in front of an
administrative law judge ("AU") on April 7, 2015,
following denial of her application at the initial and
reconsideration levels. During the hearing, plaintiff moved
to amend the alleged onset date of her disability to March
19, 2013. On May 13, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding
plaintiff not disabled. Plaintiff requested the agency's
Appeals Council to review the ALJ's decision and
submitted new evidence for consideration. The Appeals Council
denied plaintiffs request for review on January 8, 2018,
which made the ALJ's decision final. Plaintiff now seeks
review of the final decision in this Court.
U.S.C. § 405(g) provides for judicial review of the
Social Security Administration's disability
determinations: "The court shall have power to enter ...
a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without
remanding the cause for a rehearing," In reviewing the
ALJ's findings, district courts act in an appellate
capacity not as the trier of fact. Fair v. Bowen,
885 F.2d 597, 604 (9th Cir. 1989). The district court must
affirm the ALJ's decision unless it contains legal error
or lacks substantial evidentiary support. Garrison v.
Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014) (citing
Stout v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 454 F.3d 1050, 1052
(9th Cir. 2006)). Harmless legal errors are not grounds for
reversal. Burch v. Bamhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th
Cir. 2005). "Substantial evidence is more than a mere
scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion," Gutierrez v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec, 740 F.3d 519, 522 (9th Cir. 2014) (citation
and internal quotation marks omitted). The complete record,
must be evaluated and the evidence that supports and detracts
from the ALJ's conclusion must be weighed. Mayes v.
Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459 (9th Cir. 2001). If the
evidence is subject to more than one interpretation but the
Commissioner's decision is rational, the Commissioner
must be affirmed, because "the court may not substitute
its judgment for that of the Commissioner." Edlund
v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).
initial burden of proof rests upon a claimant to establish
disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486
(9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, a 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). To determine
whether a claimant is disabled, an ALJ is required to employ
a five-step sequential analysis, determining: "(1)
whether the claimant is 'doing substantial gainful
activity'; (2) whether the claimant has a 'severe
medically determinable physical or mental impairment' or
combination of impairments that has lasted for more than 12
months; (3) whether the impairment 'meets or equals'
one of the listings in the regulations; (4) whether, given
the claimant's 'residual functional capacity',
the claimant can still do his or her 'past relevant
work'; and (5) whether the claimant 'can make an
adjustment to other work."' Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a)).
one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in
"substantial gainful activity" since her
application date. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiffs
severe impairment was "degenerative disc disease of the
lumbar spine." Tr. 103. The ALJ also found that the
right lateral malleolar fracture, contusion to her right
forearm, and fracture of the distal phalanx of her right
small finger would not cause any severe functional
limitations and were therefore not severe impairments. The
ALJ notes that the contusion to her right arm sustained
during a car accident in 2014 has not persisted for more than
12 months, and therefore, even if the injury has resulted in
a significant decrease of function in her right arm, it does
not meet the requirements of a severe impairment.
three, the ALJ determined that the plaintiffs impairment does
not meet or equal the severity of a listed impairment. 20
C.F.R. § 416, 920(d); § 416.925; § 416.926.
The ALJ then assessed plaintiffs residual functional capacity
("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e); id.
§ 416.920(e). The ALJ found that Plaintiff
has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work
as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c) except that she can
frequently climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds or stoop. She is
limited to simple, routine tasks equivalent to SVP 1 or SVP2
1 type work.
four, the ALJ found that the plaintiff does not have any past
relevant work. Tr. 111. At step five, the ALJ determined with
a vocational expert that, considering plaintiffs age,
education, work experience, and residual functional capacity,
there are a significant number of jobs in the national
economy that plaintiff could perform, including laundry
laborer, bakery worker, and small ...