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Tony C. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

September 30, 2019

TONY C., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          BETSY R. SHEPHERD Of Attorney for Plaintiff,

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney RENATA GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney

          JEFFREY E. STAPLES Special Assistant United States Attorney Office of the General Counsel Of Attorney for Defendant

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOHN V. ACOSTA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Tony C. ("Plaintiff) seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II the Social Security Act ("Act"). This court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Based on a careful review of the record, the Commissioner's decision should be AFFIRMED.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff applied for DIB on July 23, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of June 22, 2013, due to obesity, and comminuted segmental tibia fracture and fibula shaft fracture status post-external fixation of the tibia and open reduction internal fixation. (Tr. 21, 141-48.) His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 81, 83-87.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which hearing occurred on December 14, 2016. (Tr. 36-61.) ALJ Cynthia Rosa issued a partially favorable decision finding Plaintiff disabled for a closed period between June 22, 2013 and October 22, 2015, but not disabled after that date. (Tr. 13-30.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review on May 21, 2018, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-7.) This appeal followed.

         Factual Background

         Born in November 1969, Plaintiff was 43 years old on his alleged onset date. (Tr. 142.) He completed one year of college and a plumber apprenticeship. (Tr. 168.) Plaintiff previously worked as a plumber for a construction business. (Id.)

         Standard of Review

         The 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) (quoting Consol Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). The court must weigh "both the evidence that supports and detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusions." 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, [a court] may not substitute [its] judgment for the ALJ's." Massachi v. Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).

         The 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).

         The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At step one, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If so, she is not disabled.

         At step two, the Commissioner evaluates whether the claimant has a "medically severe impairment or combination of impairments." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. ยง 404.1520(c). If the claimant ...


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