United States District Court, D. Oregon
KATHERINE L. EITENMILLER MARK A. MANNING HARDER, WELLS, BARON
& MANNING, P.C. ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFF
GOWIE ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
L. MARTIN SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OFFICE OF THE
GENERAL COUNSEL ATTORNEYS FOR DEFENDANT
OPINION & ORDER
A. HERNÁNDEZ United States District Judge.
Denell S. seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's
final decision to deny her application for supplemental
security income (“SSI”). This Court has
jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
(incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3)). The Court
reverses the Commissioner's decision and remands for
further administrative proceedings.
applied for SSI on September 10, 2014, alleging an onset date
of April 7, 2009. Tr. 145-53. Her application was denied
initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 89-96. On March 28,
2017, Plaintiff appeared with her counsel for a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Tr.
33-61. On June 1, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled.
Tr. 12-29. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1-3.
alleges that she has been disabled since April 7, 2009. Tr.
145. At the time of the hearing, she was forty-eight years
old. Tr. 35, 145. Plaintiff has a high school education and
has past relevant work experience as a food sales clerk. Tr.
claimant is disabled if they cannot “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), 1382c(a)(3)(A). Disability claims are evaluated
according to a five-step procedure. See Valentine v.
Comm'r, 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009) (in social
security cases, agency uses five-step procedure to determine
disability). The claimant bears the ultimate burden of
proving disability. Id.
first step, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” If so,
the claimant is not disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
416.920(b). In 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). If
not, the claimant is not disabled. Id.
three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's
impairments, singly or in combination, meet or equal
“one of a number of listed impairments that the
[Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity.” Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if
not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant,
despite any impairment(s), has the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform “past relevant
work.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).
If the claimant can perform past relevant work, the claimant
is not disabled. If the claimant cannot perform past relevant
work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. In step five,
the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can perform
other work. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e)-(f), 416.920(e)-(f). If the
Commissioner meets that burden and proves that the claimant
can perform other work that exists in the national economy,
then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity after her application date,
September 10, 2014. Tr. 17. Next, at steps two and three, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “lumbar spine degenerative disk disease
and obesity.” Id. The ALJ determined that
Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal
the severity of a listed impairment. Tr. 20. At step four,
the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had the residual functional
capacity to perform less than the full range of sedentary
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(a) and found that
she has the following limitations:
The claimant can lift/carry ten pounds occasionally and less
than ten pounds frequently. The claimant can sit for six
hours and stand or walk for a combination of up to two hours
out of an eight-hour workday. The claimant can push/pull
within the lifting/carrying restrictions. Posturally, the
claimant can climb ramps and stairs occasionally, never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, stoop occasionally, kneel
occasionally, crouch occasionally, and crawl occasionally.
The claimant's time off task can be accommodated by
Id. Because of those limitations, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work. Tr.
24. At step five, the ALJ found that jobs exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform, such as “document preparer, ”
“charge account clerk, ” and
“addresser.” Tr. 25. As a result, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff is not disabled. Id.
may set aside the Commissioner's denial of benefits only
when the Commissioner's findings “are based on
legal error or are not supported by substantial evidence in
the record as a whole.” Vasquez v. Astrue, 572
F.3d 586, 591 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks
omitted). “Substantial evidence means 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.” Id. (internal quotation
marks omitted). The Court considers the record as a whole,
including both the evidence that supports and detracts from
the Commissioner's decision. Id.;
Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th
Cir. 2007). “Where the evidence is susceptible to more
than one rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision must
be affirmed.” Vasquez, 572 F.3d at 591
(internal quotation marks and brackets omitted); see ...