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Gonzales v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

July 18, 2014

KATIE GONZALES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.

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

S. AMANDA MARSHALL, United States Attorney, ADRIAN L. BROWN, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, OR, DAVID MORADO, Regional Chief Counsel, NANCY A. MISHALANIE, Special Assistant United States Attorneys, Social Security Administration Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANNA J. BROWN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Katie Gonzales seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments under Title XVI. The Commissioner filed a Motion (#17) to Remand this matter on April 14, 2014.

This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Following a thorough review of the record, the Court GRANTS the Commissioner's Motion (#17) to Dismiss as MODIFIED herein, REVERSES the decision of the Commissioner and REMANDS this matter to the Commissioner pursuant to sentence four, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for further administrative proceedings consistent with this Opinion and Order.

ADMINISTRATIVE AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed her applications for DIB and SSI on June 5, 2009. Tr. 19.[2] The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on May 25, 2011. Tr. 19. At the hearing Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. Tr. 37. Plaintiff, lay witness Danny Gonzales, and a Vocational Expert (VE) testified at the hearing. Tr. 19.

The ALJ issued a decision on August 17, 2011, in which he found Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 30. That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on March 27, 2014, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1.

Plaintiff filed a Complaint for Judicial Review Under the Social Security Act on May 24, 2013, and, as noted, the Commissioner filed a Motion (#17) to Remand on April 14, 2014 The Court took this matter under advisement on May 18, 2014.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on February 19, 1982, and was 29 years old at the time of the hearing. Tr. 194. Plaintiff completed high school and some college courses. Tr. 45. She has past work experience as a customer-service representative and a taxi-cab dispatcher. Tr. 77-78.

Plaintiff alleges she has been disabled since November 9, 2008, due to bipolar disorder, depression, migraines, and asthma. Tr. 199.

Except when noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. After carefully reviewing the medical records, this Court adopts the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. See Tr. 21-28.

STANDARDS

The initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012). To meet this burden, a claimant must demonstrate her inability "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). The ALJ must develop the record when there is ambiguous evidence or when the record is inadequate to allow for proper evaluation of the evidence. McLeod v. Astrue, 640 F.3d 881, 885 (9th Cir. 2011)(quoting Mayes v. Massanari, 276 F.3d 453, 459-60 (9th Cir. 2001)).

The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See also Brewes v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012). Substantial evidence is "relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Molina, 674 F.3d. at 1110-11 (quoting Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 690 (9th Cir. ...


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