United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER 
MUSTAFA T. KASUBHAI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
(“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of a final
decision by the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her claim for Title II
disability and disability insurance benefits, and Title XVI
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381a and 1382c(a)(3)(A). This Court has
jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and §
1383(c)(3). For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
applied for a period of Disability and Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II on November 19,
2013, and for supplemental security income under Title XVI on
November 19, 2013, alleging disability beginning October 22,
2010. Tr. 55; Pl. Br. 1, ECF No. 17. The agency denied
the claims both initially and upon reconsideration, and
Plaintiff requested a hearing. Tr. 55. Plaintiff appeared for
a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Katherine Weatherly on April 6, 2017. Id. At the
hearing, the Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date of
disability to October 22, 2013. Id. On January 17,
2018, the ALJ issued a decision denying both of
Plaintiff's claims for benefits. Tr. 65.
requested review of the hearing decision with the Appeals
Council. Pl. Br. 5, ECF No. 17. Plaintiff obtained new
counsel, and the Appeals Council allowed additional time for
Plaintiff to submit new evidence. Id. Plaintiff
submitted a Walmart pharmacy log tracking her prescriptions
from January 1, 2013 through November 7, 2017 (Tr. 12-17); a
medical opinion letter and medical source statement from
Richard Browning, PMHNP completed January 9, 2018 (Tr.
18-24); and a Psychological Evaluation dated October 25, 2017
(Tr. 24-30) and a medical source statement dated May 25, 2018
(Tr. 31-34) provided by examining psychologist Scott Alvord.
Id. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review on June 15, 2018. Tr. 1-6. The Appeals
Council stated that it “did not consider and exhibit
[Plaintiff's additional] evidence” because the
Council found that the evidence did “not show a
reasonable probability that it would change the outcome of
the decision.” Pl. Br. 5-6, ECF No. 17.
the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. Compl. 2, ECF No. 1.
was born October 25, 1966. Tr. 247 Plaintiff's records
describe a history of childhood and adult physical,
emotional, and sexual abuse. See, e.g. Tr. 415, 471,
528, 531. Plaintiff graduated from high school. Tr. 86.
Plaintiff worked in various jobs over the years, including as
a cashier and as a deli clerk. Tr. 88. After losing her job
in 2010, Plaintiff attempted to return to college from
2011-2012, but could not complete her course work because she
struggled to “make it to classes with [her]
health.” Tr. 87. Plaintiff then consulted a doctor
about her mental health issues. Tr 93.
lives in Eugene, Oregon with a cousin during the week, and
stays with her ill mother in Drain, Oregon on weekends. Tr.
84. Plaintiff performs general house chores and some
caretaking of her mother, although her mother can generally
care for herself when alone. Tr. 85-86. About twice a month
while at her mother's home, Plaintiff contacts her aunt
to help, because both Plaintiff and Plaintiff's mother
need assistance. Tr. 96. Plaintiff reported that she often
remains at her mother's house longer than the weekend
because Plaintiff experiences her own health problems and
stays until she feels better. Id.
fell from a height of approximately six feet onto her right
knee in 2007 or 2008, Tr. 91; Pl. Br. 8, ECF No. 17. She
underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in November 2016, and a
post-surgery steroid injection in December 2016, both with
Jeffrey Tuman, M.D. Tr. 803, 784. At the hearing, Plaintiff
testified that she continued to use crutches for walking, and
motorized carts when in stores, although Plaintiff did not
use the crutches on the date of the hearing. Tr. 83, 94.
began treatment in October 2012 with Dr. Chaplin at
PeaceHealth Medical Group for hypertension, fibromyalgia, and
headaches. Tr. 458. Dr. Chaplin's notes report that
Plaintiff was on psychiatric medications prescribed by a
prior doctor at Oregon Medical Group, and had been for about
three years, for anxiety and panic attacks, depression, and
possibly bipolar disorder. Tr. 460. Dr. Chaplin diagnosed
Plaintiff with anxiety state, unspecified; bipolar disorder
with depression, panic disorder without agoraphobia;
unspecified essential hypertension; asthma exacerbation, and
insomnia on March 26, 2014. Tr. 479-89.
Topaz, LMFT, QMHP at Options Counseling, performed
Plaintiff's Mental Health Assessment on November 21,
2014. Tr. 534-35. Plaintiff continued to receive counseling
through Options for complaints of cycles of elevated mood,
binge eating, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep, and
increased talkativeness and distractibility alternating with
depressed mood, decreased interest in activities, fatigue,
feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, and inability to
concentrate. Tr. 534. Plaintiff's depressive symptoms
culminated in her complaints of “wanting to go to sleep
and not wake up, ” on March 7, 2017. Tr. 771. Richard
Browning, PMHNP at Options, managed Plaintiff's multiple
psychotropic medications starting in January 2016. Tr. 727.
Pl. Br. 10, ECF No. 17. Plaintiff continued to attend
counseling at Options as of the date of her Administrative
Hearing on April 6, 2017. Tr. 91.
engages in a five-step sequential inquiry to determine
whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a). The five-step sequential inquiry
is summarized below, and as described in Tackett v.
Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999).
One: The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is
engaged in substantial gainful activity. A claimant who is
engaged in such activity is not disabled. If the claimant is
not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner
proceeds to evaluate the claimant's case under step two.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b).
Two: The Commissioner determines whether the claimant
has one or more severe impairments. A claimant who does not
have any such impairment is not disabled. If the claimant has
one or more severe impairment(s), the Commissioner proceeds
to evaluate the claimant's case under step three. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(c).
Three: Disability cannot be based solely on a severe
impairment; therefore, the Commissioner next determines
whether the claimant's impairment “meets or
equals” one of the presumptively disabling impairments
listed in the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) regulations, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. A claimant who has an impairment that meets a
listing is presumed disabled under the Act. If the
claimant's impairments are not equivalent to one of the
enumerated impairments, between the third and fourth steps
the ALJ is required to assess the claimant's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”), based on all the
relevant medical and other evidence in the claimant's
record. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e). The RFC is
an estimate of the claimant's capacity to perform
sustained, work-related physical and/or mental activities on
a regular and continuing basis, despite limitations imposed
by the claimant's impairments. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.945; see also SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184.
Four: The Commissioner determines whether the claimant
is able to perform work he or she has done in the past. A
claimant who can perform past relevant work is not disabled.
If the claimant demonstrates he or she cannot do past
relevant work, the Commissioner's evaluation of
claimant's case proceeds under step five. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(e), 416.920(f).
Five: The Commissioner determines whether the claimant
is able to do any other work. A claimant who cannot perform
other work is disabled. If the Commissioner finds claimant is
able to do other work, the Commissioner must show that a
significant number of jobs exist in the national economy that
claimant is able to do. The Commissioner may satisfy this
burden through the testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”), or by reference to the Medical-Vocational
Guidelines, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2. If the
Commissioner demonstrates that a significant number of jobs
exist in the national economy that the claimant is able to
perform, the claimant is not disabled. If the Commissioner
does not meet the burden, the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R.
steps one through four of the sequential inquiry, the burden
of proof is on the claimant. Tackett, 180 F.3d at
1098. If the claimant satisfies his burden with respect to
the first four steps, the burden then shifts to the
Commissioner regarding step five. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(g). At step five, the Commissioner's burden is to
demonstrate that the claimant can make an adjustment to other
work after considering the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience. Id.
found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of