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Burlingham v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 28, 2014

BECKY BURLINGHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

MERRILL SCHNEIDER, Schneider Kerr & Gibney Law Offices, Portland, Oregon, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

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

OPINION AND ORDER

MALCOLM F. MARSH, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Becky Burlingham, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying her application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the Act). See 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. 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 an application for DIB on September 9, 2009, alleging disability beginning August 1, 2004, caused by generalized anxiety disorder, disorders of both feet, high blood pressure, "neck and shoulder from car accident 12/2008, " a bulging disc in her back, and a leg contusion. Tr. 154. Plaintiff's date last insured is June 30, 2005. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claim initially and upon reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on May 19, 2011, at which Plaintiff testified and was represented by counsel. Tr. 36-56.

In addition, vocational expert Nancy Bloom was present throughout the hearing and testified. Tr. 53-56.

On June 3, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application. Tr. 19-28. The Appeals Council declined review and Plaintiff timely appealed to this court. Tr. 1-3.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Born on March 22, 1958, Plaintiff was 51 years old on the application date and 53 years old on the date of the hearing. Tr. 150. Plaintiff has a high school diploma, earned an associate degree in marketing, and has her realtor license. Tr. 159. Plaintiff has past relevant work as an Administrative Assistant, Retail Clerk, and Real Estate Agent. Tr. 26-27.

In addition to her hearing testimony, Plaintiff submitted an Adult Function Report. Tr. 161-68. Plaintiff's mother, Virginia I. Sikes, submitted a Third Party Function Report. Tr. 178. Although the record does not contain the opinion of any treating or examining physician, it does contain a disability determination from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Tr. 519-21.

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 did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period between her alleged onset date of August 1, 2004, and her date last insured on June ...


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