United States District Court, D. Oregon
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, Barbara Norman, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying her applications for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and disabled widow's benefits (DWB) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the Act), as well as supplemental security income (SSI) disability benefits under Title XVI of the Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 40.1-434, 1381-1383f. 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.
Plaintiff protectively filed the instant applications for DIB, DWB, and SSI on March 4, 2010, alleging disability due to arthritis in her knees and spine, fibromyalgia, edema in her left leg, asthma, and "fast heart beat." Tr. 219. Her applications were denied initially on July 13, 2010. On reconsideration, however, the Commissioner awarded Plaintiff DIB with an onset date of July 1, 2007, but denied Plaintiff's application for DWB. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on September 2, 2011, at which Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified. Vocational Expert (VE) Gary Jesky was also present throughout the hearing, but the ALJ ultimately determined that his testimony was not necessary.
On September 21, 2011, the ALJ issued an opinion affirming the decision on reconsideration and finding Plaintiff disabled for purposes of DIB beginning June 1, 2007, but concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of DWB. After the Appeals Council declined review of the ALJ's decision, Plaintiff timely filed a Complaint in this Court.
Born on January 16, 1955, Plaintiff was 51 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 56 years old on the date of the hearing. Tr. 214. Plaintiff has a high school equivalency and prior work in newspaper deli very and wafer inspection at a semiconductor factory. Tr. 220-21. Plaintiff alleges her conditions became disabling on June 30, 2006. Tr. 214.
Plaintiff testified about her conditions at the hearing and submitted an Adult Function Report. Tr. 42-58, 236-43. In addition, Plaintiff's mother, Barbara J. Straw, submitted a Third Party Function Report. Tr. 244-51.
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 assumed that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date, June 30, 2006. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq. ; Tr. 27.
At Step Two, the ALJ found that "[t]here are no medical signs or laboratory findings to substantiate the existence of a medically determinable impairment" during the relevant period between Plaintiff's alleged onset date of June 30, 2006, and the established ...