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Brown v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

July 9, 2014

BRENDA BROWN, Plaintiff,

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, GERALD J. HILL, Social Security Administration, Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for Defendant.


MALCOLM F. MARSH, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Brenda Brown, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying her application for supplemental security income (SSI) disability benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act). See 42 U.S.C. §§ 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 and Order.


Plaintiff protectively filed the instant application for SSI on November 20, 2008, alleging disability due to bipolar disorder, clinical depression, diabetes, Osgood-Schlatter disease, and borderline personality disorder. Tr. 277. Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)presided over a hearing on February 25, 2011, and a supplemental hearing on May 20, 2011. At the first hearing, Plaintiff testified but was not represented by counsel. Tr. 78-91. At the second hearing, Plaintiff testified again and was represented by counsel. Tr. 67-77. Vocational Expert (VE) James Ryan, Ph.D., was also present throughout both hearings and testified at the conclusion of the first hearing. On June 7, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application. The Appeals Council, however, reversed and remanded for further consideration.

On remand, a different ALJ held a new hearing on January 2, 2013, at which Plaintiff testified and was represented by counsel. VE Gary Jesky was present throughout the hearing and testified. On January 23, 2013, the ALJ issued an opinion again denying Plaintiff's claim. The Appeals Council declined review and Plaintiff timely appealed to this Court.


Born on December 13, 1971, Plaintiff was 36 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 41 years old on the date of the most recent hearing. Tr. 250. Plaintiff has a 12th grade education with past relevant work as a Call Center Telemarketer, Plastic Bottle Production Worker, and Chips and Nuts Manufacturing or Processing Quality Assurance Technician. Tr. 283. Plaintiff alleges her conditions became disabling on August 1, 2008. Tr. 250.

In addition to her testimony at the three hearings, Plaintiff submitted an Adult Function Report. Tr. 302-07. Plaintiff's friend, Shardell Bodda, also submitted a Third Party Function Report. Tr. 286-93. On March 24, 2009, Paul S. Stoltzfus, Ph.D., performed a psychodiagnostic evaluation and submitted an opinion as to Plaintiff's mental impairments. Tr. 485-91. On March 21, 2009, Yin Kan.Hwee, M.D., performed a comprehensive physical evaluation and submitted an opinion as to Plaintiff's physical impairments. Tr. 557-61. Finally, on April 8, 2009, Joshua J. Boyd, Psy. D., reviewed the medical record and submitted a Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment, and on April 13, 2009, Martin Kehrli, M.D., reviewed Plaintiff's records and submitted a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment. Tr. 513-24.


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. § 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 Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date, November 20, 2008. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(b), 416.971 et seq.; Tr. 21.

At Step Two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease with a history of a microdiscectomy, diabetes, depressive disorder not otherwise specified, borderline personality disorder, amphetamine dependence, cannabis dependence, and history of polysubstance abuse were severe impairments. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c); Tr. 21-22, 27.

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. §§ 416.920(d), 416, 925, 416.926; Tr. 22-23, 27-28.

The ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work, but further limited Plaintiff to no climbing of ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; and occasional climbing of stairs and ramps. The ALJ further limited Plaintiff to simple, routine, repetitive work without public contact, occasional or minimum contact with coworkers and supervisors, and working best alone and without teamwork to complete a task. Finally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff would occasionally have periods of marked attention and concentration deficits. Tr. 23-25. The ALJ, however, found ...

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