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Monti v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 28, 2014

JOSEPH MONTI, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

KATHRYN TASSINARI, ROBERT A. BARON, Harder, Wells, Baron & Manning, P.C., Eugene, Oregon, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

S. AMANDA MARSHALL, United States Attorney, ADRIAN L. BROWN, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, Oregon, DAPHNE BANAY, Social Security Administration, Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MALCOLM F. MARSH, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Joseph Monti, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying his applications for child's insurance benefits (CIB) based on disability under Title II of the Social Security Act (the Act) and supplemental security income (SSI) disability benefits under Title XVI of the Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, 1381-1383f. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons set forth below, I reverse the final decision of the Commissioner and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff protectively filed his applications for SSI and CIB on June 5, 2009, and July 6, 2009, respectively, alleging disability due to "nerve damage" to the left foot caused by a gunshot wound to the back, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a history of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Tr. 214. His applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. A hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on February 8, 2012, at which Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified. Vocational Expert (VE) Mark McGowan was also present throughout the hearing and testified.

On February 24, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. After the Appeals Council declined review of the ALJ's decision, Plaintiff timely filed a complaint in this Court.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Born on November 8, 1989, Plaintiff was 16 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 22 years old on the date of the hearing. Plaintiff has an 11th grade education, but has not completed his high school equivalency and has no past relevant work. Tr. 29.

Plaintiff alleges his conditions became disabling on February 23, 2006. Tr. 209. Plaintiff testified about his limitations at the hearing and submitted an Adult Function Report and Pain and Fatigue Questionnaire. Tr. 40-67, 230-38. Plaintiff's friend, Kathleen Clemskelton, submitted a Third Party Function Report. Tr. 222-29. Plaintiff's mother submitted multiple letters on Plaintiff's behalf. Kurt Brewster, M.D., examined Plaintiff and submitted an evaluative opinion as to Plaintiff's physical limitations. Tr. 505-14. Judith Eckstein, Ph.D., examined Plaintiff and submitted an evaluative opinion as to Plaintiff's psychological limitations. Tr. 517-22. Robert Henry, Ph.D., and Linda L. Jensen, M.D., reviewed Plaintiff's records and submitted reviewing opinions concerning Plaintiff's mental and physical limitations, respectively. Finally, the record contains a chart note from Jerry Boggs, M.D., Plaintiff's treating neurologist, that Plaintiff argues is entitled to consideration as a medical opinion. Tr. 634-36.

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. §§ 404.1520 (a) (4) (i)-(v), 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 that Plaintiff had not attained age 22 on the alleged date of disability or engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date, February 23, 2006. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.102, 404.350(a)(5), 404.1571 et seq., 416.120 (c) (4), 416. 971 et seq. ; Tr. 23.

At Step Two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's "[s]tatus post gunshot wound in the back, " ADHD, learning disorder, mathematics disorder, dysthymia, and cannabis dependence were severe impairments. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c); Tr. 23.

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. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, 416.926; Tr. 23.

The ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work, except that Plaintiff is further limited to occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; occasional balancing and crawling; no climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; no exposure to hazards such as dangerous machinery and unprotected heights; only ...


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