United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
Debra D. B. Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION & ORDER
A. HERNANDEZ JUDGE
brings this action for judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision denying her application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act. The Court has jurisdiction
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42
U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)). Because the Administrative Law
Judge's decision is free of legal error and supported by
substantial evidence in the record, the Court AFFIRMS the
decision and DISMISSES this case.
was born on April 4, 1956 and was fifty-two years old on
December 31, 2008, the alleged disability onset date. Tr.
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act (“SSA” or “Act”) through
March 31, 2011. Tr. 13. Plaintiff has at least a tenth-grade
education and is able to perform past relevant work. Tr. 24.
Plaintiff claims she is disabled based on conditions
including “multiple sclerosis with neurogenic
(overactive) bladder and mild incomplete emptying, and
sciatica.” Tr. 16.
benefits application was denied initially on July 16, 2014
and upon reconsideration on January 8, 2015. Tr. 13. A
hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Steven A. De
Monbreum on January 12, 2017. Tr. 31-68. ALJ De Monbreum
issued a written decision on March 17, 2017, finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled and therefore not entitled to
benefits. Tr. 13-25. The Appeals Council declined review,
rendering ALJ De Monbreum's decision the
Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1-6.
claimant is disabled if she is unable 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). Disability claims are evaluated according to a
five-step procedure. Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009). The claimant
bears the ultimate burden of proving disability. Id.
one, 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). 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). If
not, the claimant is not disabled.
three, the Commissioner determines whether 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, the claimant is not disabled. If the
claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts
to the Commissioner. At 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 its burden and proves that the claimant is
able to perform other work which exists in the national
economy, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability
onset date. Tr. 15.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had “the
following ‘severe' impairments: multiple sclerosis
(“MS”) with neurogenic (overactive) bladder and
mild incomplete emptying, and sciatica.” Tr. 16. The
ALJ determined that Plaintiff's nephrectomy for renal
carcinoma, chronic cystitis, mild urinary urge/stress
incontinence, and headaches were not severe. Tr. 16.
three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have any
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments. Tr. 16.
proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work. The
ALJ further specified that Plaintiff
is able to lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently, stand and/or walk for a total of about 6
hours in an 8-hour day and sit for a total of about 6 hours
in an 8-hour day. She can occasionally climb ramps/stairs,
but never climb ladders/ropes/scaffolds. She can occasionally
balance, kneel, crouch and stoop, but never crawl. She must
avoid all exposure to temperature extremes as well as to
hazards such as dangerous machinery and unprotected heights.
Additionally, the claimant requires a workplace with an
accessible toilet facility.
four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of
performing past relevant work. Tr. 24. Accordingly, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled and did not move on
to step five. Tr. 24.
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). “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). Courts consider 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 omitted); see
also Massachi v. Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152
(9th Cir. 2007) (“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.”)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
raises two issues on appeal. She argues the ALJ erred by (1)
improperly rejecting her subjective symptom testimony and ...