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Olds v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. Oregon

July 22, 2014

JEFFREY CLINTON OLDS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

Merrill Schneider, SCHNEIDER KERR & GIBNEY LAW OFFICES, Portland, OR, Attorney for Plaintiff.

S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, District of Oregon, Ronald K. Silver, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, OR, Richard M. Rodriguez, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, SSA Office of General Counsel, Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION ORDER

MARCO A. HERNANDEZ, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jeffrey Clinton Olds brings this action under the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Olds's claim for Title II disability benefits. For the reasons below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Olds was born in May of 1957 and was 42 years old at the alleged onset date of disability, January 11, 2010. Tr. 600. He finished one year of college and completed specialized training as a medical assistant and for his construction-related jobs. Tr. at 163. Mr. Olds applied for social security disability benefits in March of 2010, citing renal failure, severe asthma, an unspecified heart valve condition, and skin cancer. Tr. 19, 163. After a hearing on November 18, 2011, Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Catherine Lazuran notified Mr. Olds on December 16, 2011, that his claim was denied. The Social Security Administration ("SSA") Appeals Council denied Olds's request for review on March 20, 2013, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision that is now before the court on appeal.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The parties are familiar with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record. Accordingly, I will repeat evidence only as necessary to explain my decision.

SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY EVALUATION

A claimant is disabled if he 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). Each step is potentially dispositive. At step one, the presiding administrative law judge determines whether the claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." If so, the claimant is not disabled; if not, the analysis continues. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). At step two, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has one or more severe impairments. If not, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). At step three, the ALJ determines whether the impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the SSA regulations and deemed "so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity." Bowen v. Yuckert , 482 U.S. 137, 141 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the analysis moves to step four. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). At step four, the ALJ 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 the claimant cannot perform his or her past relevant work, the analysis moves to step five where the ALJ determines whether the claimant is able to do any other work in the national economy considering the claimants RFC, age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g).

The burden to show disability rests with the claimant at steps one through four, but if the analysis reaches step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that a significant number of jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant could perform. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f); Tackett v. Apfel , 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-1100 (9th Cir.1999). If the Commissioner demonstrates a significant number of jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant can perform, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g)(1), 416.920(g).

THE ALJ'S DECISION

At step one, the ALJ found Olds had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date, January 11, 2010. Tr. 593, Finding 2. The ALJ noted that Olds made an unsuccessful work attempt in August or September of 2010, and that he received approximately $200 per week from the Masonry Welfare Trust, but found these did not constitute substantial gainful activity. Id. at 593. At step two, the ALJ found Olds had the "following severe impairments: a history of two kidney transplants and polycystic kidney disease; urinary incontinence; and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease...." Id., Finding 3. At step three, the ALJ found Olds's impairments did not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment under 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Tr. 595, Finding 4. Next, the ALJ assessed Olds's RFC:

[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform less than the full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b). He can lift and carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; he can stand and walk for four of eight hours; he can sit for six of eight hours; he needs an option to sit or stand; he can occasionally climb, kneel, crouch, crawl, and stoop; he should avoid concentrated ...

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