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Ropp v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

June 5, 2014


RICHARD A. SLY, Portland, OR, TIM WILBORN, Las Vegas, NV, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

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


MALCOLM F. MARSH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Shelby Todd Ropp seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his applications for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C §§ 401-403, and application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) (3). For the reasons that follow, I affirm the final decision of the Commissioner.


Plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI on January 7, 2010, alleging disability beginning October 9, 2009 due to paranoid schizophrenia, depression, bilateral end-stage hip osteoarthritis, morbid obesity, lumbar degenerative disc disease, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, and ulnar neuropathy. Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). An ALJ held a hearing on September 23, 2011, at which plaintiff appeared with her attorney and testified. A vocational expert, Erin Martz, also appeared and testified. On March 8, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, and therefore, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of review.[1]

Born in 1968, plaintiff was 41 years old on his alleged disability onset date and 43 years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff earned a GED and attended college for two years. Plaintiff has past relevant work as an auto mechanic and welder. Plaintiff has a history of methamphetamine abuse.


The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert , 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. Each step is potentially dispositive. The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. See Valentine v. Commissioner Soc. Sec. Admin. , 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009); Tackett v. Apfel , 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999). At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant can do other work which exists in the national economy. Hill v. Astrue , 698 F.3d 1153, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012).

The ALJ concluded that plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2012. A claimant seeking DIE benefits under Title II must establish disability on or prior to the last date insured. 42 u.s.c. § 416(I) (3); Burch v. Barnhart , 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).

At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset of disability. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: methamphetamine abuse, paranoid schizophrenia vs. substance induced psychotic disorder, severe bilateral end stage hip osteoarthritis, morbid obesity, narcotic pain medicine dependence, and mild lumbar degenerative disc disease. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments, or combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment. The ALJ assessed plaintiff with a residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform less than a full range of sedentary work in that plaintiff is limited to standing/walking no more than two hours out of an eight hour day; he can occasionally climb, kneel, crawl, and reach overhead; he should avoid concentrated exposure to vibration and hazardous conditions; and he is limited to performing simple and semi-skilled work.

At step four, the ALJ found plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ concluded that considering plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff can perform, such as table worker, assembler, and stuffer. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability under the Social Security Act from October 9, 2009 through the date of the decision.


On appeal to this court, plaintiff contends the following errors were committed: (1) the ALJ failed to properly evaluate and include limitations described in the opinion of examining physician Tatsuro Ogisu, M. D.; (2) the ALJ failed to properly account for plaintiff's mental limitations in the RFC; (3) the ALJ improperly evaluated lay testimony from Elissa Ropp, plaintiff's ...

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