United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Patricia Sullivan United States Magistrate Judge.
Melissa R. seeks judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”).
(Docket No. 1). This Court has jurisdiction to review the
Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). All parties have consented to allow a Magistrate
Judge to enter final orders and judgment in accordance with
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73 and 28 U.S.C. §
636(c). See (Docket No. 4). For the reasons that
follow, the Commissioner's decisions is REVERSED and this
case is REMANDED for further proceedings.
filed her application for DIB on November 19, 2014, alleging
an amended disability onset date of November 14, 2014. Tr.
23, 49, 166-67. Her applications were denied initially
and upon reconsideration. Tr. 75, 102. Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), and a hearing was held on March 24,
2017. Tr. 46-74, 122- 23. On July 10, 2017, an ALJ issued a
decision finding plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of
the Act. Tr. 23-35. The Appeals Council denied
plaintiff's request for review on May 8, 2018, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
Tr. 1-6. This appeal followed.
1970, plaintiff was 44 years old on her amended alleged onset
date. Tr. 34, 76. She completed high school and one year of
college and has past relevant work as a receptionist and
administrative clerk. Tr. 33-34, 68, 197. She alleged
disability based on chronic left hip pain, depression,
anxiety, and mental confusion. Tr. 196; see also Tr.
25. Plaintiff lives with her husband and adult daughter. Tr.
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) (quotation omitted).
The court must weigh “both the evidence that supports
and detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusion.”
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, [the court] may not substitute
[its] judgment for the ALJ's.” Massachi v.
Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation
omitted); see also Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676,
680-81 (9th Cir. 2005) (holding that the court “must
uphold the ALJ's decision where the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation”).
“[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) (quotation
initial burden of proof rests on 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).
Commissioner has established a five-step process for
determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. First, the Commissioner
determines whether a claimant is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity”; if so, the
claimant is not disabled. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140;
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). At step two,
the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a
“medically severe impairment or combination of
impairments.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). A severe
impairment is one “which significantly limits [the
claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities[.]” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) &
416.920(c). If not, the claimant is not disabled.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141. At step three, the
Commissioner determines whether the impairments meet or equal
“one of a number of listed impairments that the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity.” Id.; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is
conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the analysis
proceeds. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
point, the Commissioner must evaluate medical and other
relevant evidence to determine the claimant's
“residual functional capacity”
(“RFC”), an assessment of work-related activities
that the claimant may still perform on a regular and
continuing basis, despite any limitations his impairments
impose. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 404.1545(b)-(c),
416.920(e), 416.945(b)-(c). At the fourth step, the
Commissioner determines whether the claimant can perform
“past relevant work.” Yuckert, 482 U.S.
at 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If
the claimant can work, he is not disabled; if he cannot
perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 146 n.5. At step
five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can
perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy. Id. at 142; 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the
Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.
one, the ALJ found that plaintiff met the insured
requirements of the Act and had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since her alleged onset date. Tr. 25. At
step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had had the following
severe impairments: asthma with seasonal allergies;
congenital hip dysplasia, status post total left hip
replacement; cervical spine degenerative disc disease;
anxiety; depression; headaches; insomnia; and bilateral
hearing loss and tinnitus treated with hearing aids.
Id. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did
not have an impairment or combination thereof that met or
equaled a listed impairment. Tr. 27. The ALJ found that
plaintiff had the RFC to perform sedentary work, but with the
[She] can lift, carry, push, and pull less than 10 pounds
frequently and 10 pounds occasionally. She can sit four out
of eight hours and stand/walk four out of eight hour[s], in
an eight-hour workday, with normal breaks. [She] can perform
work activities that do not require climbing ladders, ropes,
or scaffolds and that occasionally include climbing ramps and
stairs. She cannot ambulate over uneven surfaces and must be
permitted to use a cane for ambulation away from the
workstation, as needed. [She] can occasionally stoop, but
cannot kneel, crouch and crawl. She can occasionally reach
overhead bilaterally. She can have no exposure to atmospheric
conditions and moving mechanical parts and unprotected
height/hazards, nor noise that is greater than SCODOT
 level 3
(moderate), without hearing protection. The claimant can
understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions that
can be learned in 30 days or ...