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Kerry v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

November 21, 2019

KERRY J., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael McShane, United States District Judge.

         On December 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for benefits, alleging disability as of February 1, 2010. Tr. 15.[2] Following a December 21, 2016 hearing, the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) determined Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. Tr. 23. Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in (1) rejecting the medical evidence and (2) formulating a residual functional capacity (“RFC”) that is not supported by substantial evidence. This Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). Because the Commissioner's decision is based on proper legal standards and supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The reviewing court shall affirm the Commissioner's decision if the decision is based on proper legal standards and the legal findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). “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.'” Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Sandgathe v. Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997)). To determine whether substantial evidence exists, we review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and that which detracts from the ALJ's conclusion. Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323, 326 (9th Cir. 1989). “If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing, ‘the reviewing court may not substitute its judgment' for that of the Commissioner.” Gutierrez v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 740 F.3d 519, 523 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720-21 (9th Cir. 1996)).

         DISCUSSION

         The Social Security Administration utilizes a five-step sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 & 416.920 (2012). The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to meet the first four steps. If the claimant satisfies his burden with respect to the first four steps, the burden shifts to the Commissioner for step five. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At step five, the Commissioner must show that the claimant is capable of making an adjustment to other work after considering the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), age, education, and work experience. Id. If the Commissioner fails to meet this burden, then the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v); 416.920(a)(4)(v). If, however, the Commissioner proves that the claimant is able to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy, the claimant is not disabled. Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th Cir. 2001).

         Plaintiff alleged disability as of February 1, 2010. In a January 2014 function report, Plaintiff stated, “I have no strength or coordination in hands fingers or arms, going out of joint all the time curling up numb, going to sleep can't hardly move them! Back neck are so bad if I try to do my work I will be paralyzed in hospital.” Tr. 163. Plaintiff alleged he had problems dressing because he “can't hardly move arms or hands.” Tr. 165.

         At the December 2016 hearing, the ALJ asked the Plaintiff what happened in February of 2010-Plaintiff's alleged onset date-that made it impossible to continue working:

A: Well, I-my arms had just been so bad off since about '95 when I think they started having a problem. But I worked till 2010 and I just literally couldn't do it anymore at all. I just-
Q: What kept you from not doing it anymore? What?
A: Well, the-severe tendonitis in my arms. From my shoulders to my fingertips. Along with the neck and the back and-you know, knees and legs.

Tr. 35.

         Plaintiff explained he worked in the automobile painting industry, and it took a heavy toll on his body. In response to the ALJ's question asking if Plaintiff considered looking for less taxing work, Plaintiff stated, “I-no, I didn't really. I didn't know anything else I could do other than doing the-in the automobile trade.” Tr. 36. Plaintiff stated “the severe tendonitis is the worst of it . . . [from m]y shoulders to the fingertips.” Tr. 36-37. Plaintiff stated his pain was so bad that he “can't hardly sleep.” Tr. 37. The pain was 24 hours-a-day, and Plaintiff could not even tie his shoes. Tr. 38.

         In finding Plaintiff less-than fully credible as to the extent of his limitations, a finding Plaintiff does not challenge here, the ALJ noted ...


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