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Plourd v. Colvin

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 20, 2013

JAY PLOURD, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN L. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Philip Studenberg, Klamath Falls, OR, Attorney for Plaintiff.

S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, and Adrian L. Brown, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, District of Oregon, Portland, OR, Courtney Garcia, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Seattle, WA. Attorneys for Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MARK D. CLARKE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Jay Plourd ("plaintiff') seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. This court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). Because the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the decision should be AFFIRMED.

BACKGROUND

Born in 1968, plaintiff was 39 years old on the alleged disability onset date of September 21, 2007. Tr. 110. Plaintiff was incarcerated for 20 years, and has most recently worked as a gas station attendant and general laborer. Tr. 115. Plaintiff speaks English, has a G.E.D., and attended Klamath Community College. Tr. 113, 119.

Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on November 20, 2009, alleging disability due to substance dependence, antisocial personality disorder, nervousness, anxiety, and paranoia due to psychosocial stressors. Tr. 16, 114. The Commissioner denied plaintiffs application initially and upon reconsideration, and he requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Tr. 64-66. After an administrative hearing the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not to be disabled. Tr. 14-21. Plaintiffs subsequent request for review was denied by the Appeals Council, making the ALJ's decision the final Agency decision. Tr. 1-4; 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.1481, 422.210 (2012). This appeal followed.

DISABILITY ANALYSIS

A claimant is disabled if he or 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). "Social Security Regulations set out a five-step sequential process for determining whether an applicant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act." Keyser v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011); see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). Each step is potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). The five-step sequential process asks the following series of questions:

1. Is the claimant performing "substantial gainful activity?" 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). This activity is work involving significant mental or physical duties done or intended to be done for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. § 416.910. If the claimant is performing such work, she is not disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful activity, the analysis proceeds to step two.
2. Is the claimant's impairment "severe" under the Commissioner's regulations? 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Unless expected to result in death, an impairment is "severe" if it significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.921(a). This impairment must have lasted or must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months. 20 C.F.R. § 416.909. If the claimant does not have a severe impairment, the analysis ends. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant has a severe impairment, the analysis proceeds to step three.
3. Does the claimant's severe impairment "meet or equal" one or more of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, then the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the impairment does not meet or equal one or more of the listed impairments, the analysis proceeds beyond step three. At that point, the ALJ must evaluate medical and other relevant evidence to assess and determine the claimant's "residual functional capacity" ("RFC"). This is an assessment of work-related activities that the claimant may still perform on a regular and continuing basis, despite any limitations imposed by his or her impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(e), 416.945(b)-(c). After the ALJ determines the claimant's RFC, the analysis proceeds to step four.
4. Can the claimant perform his or her "past relevant work" with this RFC assessment? If so, then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant cannot perform his or her past relevant work, the analysis proceeds to step five.
5. Considering the claimant's RFC and age, education, and work experience, is the claimant able to make an adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy? If so, then the claimant is not disabled. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v), 416.960(c). If ...

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