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Mayes v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 11, 2014

CHERYL R. MAYES, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

JAMES S. COON, Portland, OR, Attorney for Plaintiff.

S. AMANDA MARSHALL, United States Attorney, District of Oregon ADRIAN L. BROWN, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, OR, HEATHER L. GRIFFITH, Social Security Administration Office of the General Counsel, Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MALCOLM F. JVLARSH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Cheryl R. Mayes seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C §§ 401-434. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons that follow, this court reverses the decision of the Commissioner, and remands the case for an immediate award of benefits.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff protectively filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on October 22, 2007, alleging a disability onset date of October 12, 2007. Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). An ALJ held a hearing on July 27, 2009, at which plaintiff appeared with her attorney and testified. A vocational expert, Diane Weber, also appeared and testified. On July 31, 2009, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. The Appeals Council accepted plaintiff's request for review, and reversed and remanded the claim for further consideration, including re-evaluation of the opinion of plaintiff's treating physician Nicholas Gideonse, M.D.

An ALJ held two additional hearings on May 3, 2011 and December 4, 2011, at which plaintiff appeared with her attorney and testified, as did two vocational experts; On December 22, 2011, the ALJ issued another unfavorable decision. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, and the ALJ's December 22, 2011 decision therefore became the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of review.

Plaintiff was 39 years old on her alleged onset date, and 44 years old at the time of the 2011 hearing. Plaintiff has a high school education and a steady work history, with past relevant work as a receptionist, customer service representative, and bartender. Plaintiff alleges disability due to degenerative disc disease, status post laminectomy L5-S1, and depression.

THE ALJ'S DISABILITY ANALYSIS

The ALJ concluded that plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2011. At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset of disability. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: chronic back pain post laminectomy with post-laminectomy syndrome, depression, somatoform disorder, and borderline personality disorder. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments, or combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment.

The ALJ assessed plaintiff with a residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a limited range of sedentary work with several non-exertional limitations. At step four, the ALJ found plaintiff unable to perform any past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ concluded that considering plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff can perform. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled under the meaning of the Act.

ISSUE ON REVIEW

Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the opinion of her treating physician, Dr. Gideonse, and that when his opinion is fully credited, she is disabled and entitled to an immediate award of benefits. The Commissioner concedes that the ALJ erred in evaluating Dr. Gideonse's opinion, but maintains that his opinion should not be credited as true, and that a remand for further proceedings is warranted. Thus, the sole issue before ...


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