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Guy v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 2, 2014

RODNEY M. GUY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

MARLENE R. YESQUEN, Black, Chapman, Webber & Stevens, Medford, Oregon, Attorney for Plaintiff.

S. AMANDA MARSHALL, United States Attorney, ADRIAN L. BROWN, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, Oregon,

NICOLE A. JABAILY, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MALCOLM F. MARSH, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Rodney M. Guy, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying his application for supplemental security income (SSI) disability benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act). See 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons set forth below, I affirm the final decision of the Commissioner.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff protectively filed the instant application for SSI on February 9, 2009 alleging disability due to "[p]ost traumatic brain injury, hip problems." Tr. 158. Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) presided over a hearing on June 17, 2011, at which Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified. Vocational Expert (VE) Frank Lucas was also present throughout the hearing and testified.

On July 18, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application. The Appeals Council declined review, and Plaintiff timely appealed.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Born on July 24, 1972, Plaintiff was 38 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 39 years old on the date of the hearing. Plaintiff has a high school education with some college and has past relevant work as a Construction Laborer, Fire Crew Member, and Maintenance Engineer. Tr. 28, 44-45, 163.

Plaintiff alleges his conditions became disabling on July 24, 1976.[1] Tr. 139. Plaintiff testified about his limitations at the hearing and submitted an Adult Function Report. Tr. 172-79. Kate Baxted, a friend of Plaintiff's and social service coordinator, testified at the hearing on Plaintiff's behalf and submitted a Third Party Function Report. Tr. 181-88.

Edwin E. Pearson, Ph.D., conducted a Psychodiagnostic Assessment and submitted an evaluative opinion in relation to a prior disability application. Tr. 304-08. Christopher Komanapalli, M.D., submitted an evaluation of Plaintiff's physical capabilities in relation to the prior application. Tr. 311-15. On April 15, 2009, Thomas Brent Shields, Ph.D., conducted a Psychological Evaluation for purposes of assessing whether Plaintiff has any learning disorders that required accommodation in his college courses. Tr. 317-21. On April 24, 2009, Michael R. Villanueva, Psy.D., conducted a comprehensive psychodiagnostic examination and submitted an opinion in relation to the instant application for SSI. Tr. 322-26. Yin Kan.Hwee, M.D., conducted a physical examination on April 25, 2009 in relation to the instant disability application and submitted an evaluative opinion. Tr. 329-33. Megan Orr, F.N.P., one of Plaintiff's primary care providers, submitted a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Questionnaire. Tr. 372-76. Guenther Knoblich, M.D., Plaintiff's treating orthopedist, also submitted a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Questionnaire. Tr. 403-07. Finally, on March 29, 2011, Dr. Pearson conducted a Neuropsychological Screening and submitted another evaluative opinion, as well as a Medical Source Statement of Ability to do Work-Related Activities (mental). Tr. 439-49.

THE ALJ'S DISABILITY ANALYSIS

The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert , 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a) (4) (i)-(v). Each step is potentially dispositive. The claimant bears the burden of proof at Steps One through Four. Tackett v. Apfel , 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999). The burden shifts to the Commissioner at Step Five to show that a significant number of jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant can perform. See Yuckert , 482 U.S. at 141-42; Tackett , 180 F.3d at 1098.

At Step One, the ALJ determined Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date, February 9, 2009. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.971 et seq. ; Tr. 22.

At Step Two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff's right hip osteoarthritis, cognitive disorder, learning disorder, and polysubstance abuse in remission are severe impairments. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c); Tr. 22.

At Step Three, the ALJ determined Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal any listed impairment. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925, 416.926; Tr. 23-24.

The ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a range of sedentary work, except that Plaintiff can do no more than two hours of standing or walking and no more than six hours of sitting in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks; can occasionally lift up to 20 pounds and frequently lift up to 10 pounds; can frequently balance, but only occasionally climb, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; and is limited to simple, unskilled work, which the ALJ defined at the hearing as routine, repetitive tasks with simple instructions. Tr. 24-28, 89.

At Step Four, the ALJ found Plaintiff cannot perform his past relevant work as a Construction Laborer, Fire Crew Member, and Maintenance ...


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