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Chapman ex rel. Sanders v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

August 18, 2014

GRETCHEN CHAPMAN, on behalf of ANGELA SANDERS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

KATHRYN TASSINARI, ROBERT A. BARON, Harder, Wells, Baron & Manning, P.C., Eugene, 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 Office of the General Counsel, Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MALCOLM F. MARSH, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Gretchen Chapman, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying Angela Sanders's applications for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the Act) and supplemental security income (SSI) disability benefits under Title XVI of the Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, 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.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Ms. Sanders (Claimant) protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI on March 6, 2009, alleging disability due to bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia, severe depression, and diabetes. Tr. 175. Her applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on November 18, 2011, at which Claimant was represented by counsel and testified.

On December 1, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Claimant passed away after the ALJ issued his decision, but before the Appeals Council declined review. Accordingly, Plaintiff substituted as a party in Claimant's place. After the Appeals Council declined review of the ALJ's decision, Plaintiff timely filed a complaint in this Court.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Born on September 27, 1969, Claimant was 39 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 42 years old on the date of the hearing. Claimant obtained her high school equivalency and had past relevant work as a Sandwich Maker and Fitting Room Attendant. Tr. 67, 180.

Claimant alleged her conditions became disabling on August 1, 2009. Tr. 42. Claimant testified about her limitations at the hearing and submitted an Adult Function Report. Tr. 43-66, 190-97. In addition, Plaintiff, Claimant's mother, submitted a Third Party Function Report. Tr. 198-205. Kurt Brewster, M.D., completed a physical examination and submitted an opinion as to Claimant's physical limitations. Tr. 246-56. Michael R. Villanueva, Psy.D., completed a psychological examination and submitted an opinion as to Claimant's mental limitations. Tr. 259-63. Judith Eckstein, Ph.D., also conducted two psychological evaluations, and submitted opinions dated February 1, 2011, and January 12, 2012. Tr. 535-45, 624-29. Megan D. Nicoloff, Psy.D., reviewed Claimant's records through July 8, 2009, and submitted a Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment. Tr. 279-81. Finally, Sharon B. Eder, M.D., reviewed Claimant's records through July 16, 2009, and submitted a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment. Tr. 282-89.

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 determined that Claimant did not engage in substantial gainful activity after the alleged onset date, August 1, 2009. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq., 416.971 et seq. ; Tr. 18.

At Step Two, the ALJ found Claimant's major depressive disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, personality disorder with obsessive-compulsive features, remote history of alcohol abuse, fibromyalgia, diabetes, and morbid obesity were severe impairments. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c); Tr. 18-19.

At Step Three, the ALJ determined that Claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal any listed impairment. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, 416.926; Tr. 19-20.

The ALJ found Claimant had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a range of medium work, except that Claimant was further limited to six hours of sitting and six hours of standing or walking in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks; frequent climbing of stairs or ramps, but only occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, or climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; unskilled work that involves routine, repetitive tasks and simple reasoning; occasional, brief contact with the general public; and tasks involving no teamwork. Tr. 20-24.

At Step Four, the ALJ found Claimant unable to perform any past relevant work. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1565, 416.965; Tr. 24-25.

At Step Five, the ALJ found that Claimant could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy including Laundry Worker, Cleaner, and Folder. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569, 404.1569a, 416.969, 416.969a; Tr. 25-26.

Accordingly, the ALJ found Claimant was not disabled within the ...


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