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Winslow v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 7, 2014

ELIZABETH WINSLOW, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Tim Wilborn, WILBORN LAW OFFICE, P.C., Las Vegas, Nevada, Attorney for Plaintiff

S. Amanda Marshall, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, District of Oregon Ronald K. Silver, ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Portland, Oregon, Heather L. Griffith, SPECIAL ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Office of the General Counsel Social Security Administration Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

MARCO A. HERNANDEZ, District Judge.

Plaintiff Elizabeth Winslow brings this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision to deny disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). I reverse the Commissioner's decision and remand for benefits.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff applied for DIB on August 12, 2008, alleging an onset date of December 27, 2007. Tr. 123-24. Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 63-71, 73-81.

Plaintiff initially appeared for a hearing in November 2010, but it was postponed to allow her to find representation. Tr. 48-55. On March 1, 2011, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 482-540. On March 31, 2011, the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 26-46. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1-4.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges disability based on pain and swelling in her legs and feet, neuropathy, enlarged liver, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, back pain, and difficulty concentrating. Tr. 132, 170. At the time of the hearing, she was forty-three years old. Tr. 491. She completed high school and has a two-year degree in animal technology. Id . Because the parties are familiar with the medical and other evidence of record, I refer to any additional relevant facts necessary to my decision in the discussion section below.

SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY EVALUATION

A claimant is disabled if 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), 1382c(3)(a).

Disability claims are evaluated according to a five-step procedure. See Valentine v. Comm'r, 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009) (in social security cases, agency uses five-step procedure to determine disability). The claimant bears the ultimate burden of proving disability. Id.

In the first step, 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). In 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.

In step three, the Commissioner determines whether plaintiff'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.

In step 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. In 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 his burden and proves ...


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