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King v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 12, 2014

SHERRY KING, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

BRUCE W. BREWER, Law Offices of Bruce W. Brewer, P.C., West Linn, OR, Attorney for Plaintiff.

S. AMANDA MARSHALL, United States Attorney, District of Oregon, RONALD K. SILVER, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, OR, JORDAN D. GODDARD, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

MARCO A. HERNANDEZ, District Judge.

Plaintiff Sherry King seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying her applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) & 1383(c)(3). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's final decision is AFFIRMED.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On April 8, 2009, Plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging an onset date of July 11, 2003. Tr. 147-158.[1] Her applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 89-111. Thereafter, Plaintiff amended her onset date to July 16, 2008. Tr. 166.

On June 8, 2011, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Tr. 40-76. On July 20, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 24-33. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-7.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on December 4, 1966. Tr. 147, 151. She alleges disability based on fibromyalgia, lumbar disease, mental health issues, ankle injury, hip problems, posttraumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), borderline schizophrenia, sleeping disorder, eyeglasses, speech impairment, being a slow learner, and migraine headaches. Tr. 174. Plaintiff has an eighth grade education and attended special education classes. Tr. 52. Because the parties are familiar with the medical and other evidence of record, I will refer to any additional relevant facts necessary to my decision in the discussion section below.

SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY EVALUATION

A claimant is disabled if 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). Disability claims are evaluated according to a five-step procedure. See Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin. , 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009). 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; see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If not, the claimant is not disabled.

In step three, the Commissioner determines whether the impairment meets or equals "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; see also 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 impairments, has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform "past relevant work." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If so, 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 the claimant can perform other work. Yuckert , 482 U.S. at 141-42; see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the Commissioner meets his burden and proves the claimant is able to perform other work which exists in the ...


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