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Carroll v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

September 19, 2014

DEBORAH ANNE CARROLL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. McSHANE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Deborah Anne Carroll brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final administrative decision denying her application for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. This court has jurisdiction pursuant to section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). 42 U.S.C. § 401-33. Plaintiff seeks an Order reversing the decision of the Commissioner and remanding the action to the Social Security Administration for an award of benefits, or in the alternative to remand for further proceedings. For the following reasons, the Commissioner's decision is REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings pursuant to Sentence 6 of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and a new decision as directed herein.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff protectively filed her application on January 14, 2010, alleging her disability began on November 30, 2006. (Tr. 76, 143). Her claim was denied initially and on reconsideration, and she subsequently filed a request for hearing. (Tr. 90, 97, 6). After holding a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a decision on August 15, 2011, denying her application. (Tr. 10-19). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on September 26, 2012, making the ALJ's decision the final agency decision. (Tr. 1-4; 20 C.F.R. § 404.981). Plaintiff timely requested judicial review through this appeal.

Plaintiff's reported impairments include right lateral epicondylitis, obesity, asthma, and status post cholecystectomy (as deemed "severe" by the ALJ (Tr. 12)), as well as clinical depression/dysthymia (as diagnosed by Dr. Johnston (Tr. 522)), Fibromyalgia, lower back pain, lumbar facet arthopathy, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome [#45 at p.4], and Bipolar II Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Panic Disorder, and Pain Adjustment Reaction with Mixed Emotional Features (as recently diagnosed by Dr. Carson [#45 at pp.4-5 and #45-1]).

The Plaintiff asks this Court to reverse the Commissioner's decision and remand for an immediate award of benefits, or in the alternative, to reverse and remand the case for further proceedings, due to new/additional evidence regarding the plaintiff's mental health diagnoses. [#45, 51]. The Commissioner asks this Court to affirm the Commissioner's decision. [#50].

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A claimant is disabled if he or she 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). "Social Security Regulations set out a five-step sequential process for determining whether an applicant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a); Keyser v. Commissioner, 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011). The five steps proceed as follows:

1. Is the claimant presently working in a substantially gainful activity? If so, the claimant is not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. If not, proceed to step two. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b).
2. Is the claimant's impairment severe? If so, proceed to step three. If not, the claimant is not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c).
3. Does the impairment "meet or equal" one or more of the specific impairments described in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpart. P, App. 1? If so, the claimant is disabled. If not, proceed to step four. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
4. Is the claimant able to do any work that he or she has done in the past? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, proceed to step five. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).
5. Is the claimant able to do any other work? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the claimant is disabled . See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f).

The claimant bears the burden of proof for the first four steps in the process. Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953 (9th Cir. 2001); see also Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-41 (1987). The Commissioner bears the burden of proof at step five of the process, where the Commissioner must show the claimant can perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, "taking into consideration the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education, and work experience." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c)(2); ...


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