United States District Court, D. Oregon
J. WALL CAITLIN S. LAUMAKER Attorneys for Plaintiff
J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney, RENATA GOWIE Assistant
United States Attorney, MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief
Counsel, BENJAMIN J. GROEBNER Social Security Administration
Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
J. BROWN United States Senior District Judge
Susan 0. seeks judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in
which he denied Plaintiff's applications for Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
under Titles XVI and II of the Social Security Act.
reasons that follow, the Court AFFIRMS the
decision of the Commissioner and DISMISSES
filed her applications for SSI and DIB on December 24, 2015.
Tr. 221. Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date
of January 31, 2010. Her applications were denied initially
and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
held a hearing on December 6, 2017. Tr. 37-64. Plaintiff and
a vocational expert (VE) at the hearing, and Plaintiff was
represented by an attorney.
February 7, 2018, the ALJ issued an opinion in which she
found Plaintiff's relevant disability onset date is July
2, 2013; Plaintiff was not disabled at any time after July 2,
2013; and, Plaintiff, therefore, is not entitled to benefits.
Tr. 15-30. Pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.984(d) that
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on
October 25, 2018, when the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-6. See Sims v.
Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
was born on December 22, 1979. Tr. 221. Plaintiff was 37
years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff has a Masters
Degree in Music Performance and an Associates Degree in
Veterinary Science Technology. Tr. 44. Plaintiff has past
relevant work experience as a veterinary technician. Tr. 28.
alleges disability due to depression, anxiety, migraines,
bipolar disorder, fatigue, and attention deficit disorder
(ADD). Tr. 96-97.
when noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's
summary of the medical evidence. After carefully reviewing
the medical records, this Court adopts the ALJ's summary
of the medical evidence. See Tr. 22-27.
initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish
disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110
(9thCir. 2012). To meet this burden, a claimant
must demonstrate her inability "to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which . . . has
lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of
not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
The ALJ must develop the record when there is ambiguous
evidence or when the record is inadequate to allow for proper
evaluation of the evidence. McLeod v. Astrue, 640
F.3d 881, 885 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Mayes
v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459-60 (9th Cir.
district 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 as a whole.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See also Brewes v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th
Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is "relevant evidence
that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Molina, 674 F.3d. at 1110-11
(quoting Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 690 (9th Cir. 2009)).
"It is more than a mere scintilla [of evidence] but less
than a preponderance." Id. (citing
Valentine, 574 F.3d at 690).
is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in the medical evidence, and resolving ambiguities.
Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586, 591 (9th
Cir. 2009). The court must weigh all of the evidence whether
it supports or detracts from the Commissioner's decision.
Ryan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 528 F.3d 1194, 1198
(9th Cir. 2008). Even when the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the
court must uphold the Commissioner's findings if they are
supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record.
Ludwig v. Astrue, 681 F.3d 1047, 1051
(9th Cir. 2012). The court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the Commissioner. Widmark v.
Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1070 (9th Cir.
The Regulatory Sequential Evaluation
One the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404 .1520(a) (4) (I),
416.920(a) (4) (I) . See also Keyser v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec, 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011).
Two the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant does not have any medically severe
impairments or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a) (4) (ii), 416.920(a) (4) (ii) .
See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724.
Three the claimant is disabled if the Commissioner determines
the claimant's impairments meet or equal one of the
listed impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges are so
severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a) (4) (iii), 416.920(a) (4) (iii) .
See also Keyser, 648 F.3d at 724. The criteria for
the listed impairments, known as Listings, are enumerated in
20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 1 (Listed
Commissioner proceeds beyond Step Three, he must assess the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC). The
claimant's RFC is an assessment of the sustained,
work-related physical and mental activities the claimant can
still do on a regular and continuing basis despite her
limitations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).
See also Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-8p. "A
'regular and continuing basis' means 8 hours a day,
for 5 days a week, or an equivalent schedule." SSR
96-8p, at *1. In other words, the Social Security Act does
not require complete incapacity to be disabled. Taylor v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 659 F.3d 1228, 1234-35
(9th Cir. 2011) (citing Fair v. Bowen,
885 F.2d 597, 603 (9th Cir. 1989)).
Four the claimant is not disabled if the Commissioner
determines the claimant retains the RFC to perform work she
has done in the past. 20 C.F.R. §§