Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Green v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

March 6, 2017

ERIC J. GREEN, Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Jeremiah C. Lynch United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Eric Green brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433, §§ 1382-1385. Green alleges disability since May 5, 2011, due to depression, bipolar disorder, drug abuse (meth), back problems, and a head injury. Green's application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and he requested an administrative hearing. Green appeared with a non-attorney representative at the administrative hearing in October 2012. In February 2013, an ALJ issued a decision finding Green not disabled within the meaning of the Act. The Appeals Council denied Green's request for review, and Green sought judicial review. In April 2015, this Court remanded Green's case for further proceedings. Green appeared with counsel at the hearing on remand in October 2015, and in December 2015 the same ALJ issued a decision finding Green not disabled within the meaning of the Act. The Appeals Council denied Green's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the agency's final decision for purposes of judicial review.[1] (Tr. 4-8). Jurisdiction vests with this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         Green was 40 years old at the time of his alleged onset date, and 47 at the time of the ALJ's decision on remand.

         I. Standard of Review

         This Court's review is limited. The Court may set aside the Commissioner's decision only where the decision is not supported by substantial evidence or where the decision is based on legal error. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.l (9th Cir. 2005); Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Widmarkv. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063, 1070 (9th Cir. 2006).

         "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities." Edlundv. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001). This Court must uphold the Commissioner's findings "if supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record." Batson v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration, 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). "[I]f evidence exists to support more than one rational interpretation, " the Court "must defer to the Commissioner's decision." Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193 (citing Morgan v. Commissioner, 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). This Court "may not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner." Widmark, 454 F.3d at 1070 (quoting Edlund, 253 F.3d at 1156).

         II. Burden of Proof

         To establish disability, a claimant bears "the burden of proving an '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.'" Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193-94 (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)).

         In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The claimant bears the burden of establishing disability at steps one through four of this process. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005). At the first step, the ALJ will consider whether the claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(I). If not, the ALJ must determine at step two whether the claimant has any impairments that qualify as "severe" under the regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If the ALJ finds that the claimant does have one or more severe impairments, the ALJ will compare those impairments to the impairments listed in the regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If the ALJ finds at step three that the claimant has an impairment that meets or equals a listed impairment, then the claimant is considered disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(iii).

         If, however, the claimant's impairments do not meet or equal the severity of any impairment described in the Listing of Impairments, then the ALJ must proceed to step four and consider whether the claimant retains the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform his or her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant establishes an inability to engage in past work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to establish that the claimant can perform other work in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).

         III. Discussion

         The ALJ found at step one that Green meets the insured status requirements of the Act through March 31, 2017, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date. (AR 512). At step two, the ALJ found that Green had the following severe impairments: back disorder, organic mental disorder, borderline personality disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and affective disorder. (AR 511). The ALJ concluded at step three that Green did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals any impairment described in the Listing of Impairments. (AR 513). The ALJ also found that Green's subjective testimony was only partially credible, and concluded he had the residual functional capacity to perform a reduced range of light work. (AR 515). The ALJ found at step four that Green could not perform any past relevant work, but concluded at step five that he was not disabled because he was capable of semi-skilled light work as a bench assembler or assembly worker, and unskilled light work as an assembler of plastic hospital products. (AR 522-23).

         A. Severe Impairments

         Green argues the ALJ erred by not including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and degenerative disc disease as severe impairments at step two. He points out that the ALJ considered those impairments severe in his first decision, and maintains he should have included them in the most recent decision as well.

         Although the ALJ did not use exactly the same terms, he identified essentially the same severe impairments. The ALJ identified Green's degenerative disc disease as a back disorder, his major depressive disorder as an affective disorder, and referred to what he previously called a bipolar disorder as an organic mental disorder and borderline personality ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.