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Walton v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

October 20, 2014

MARLA RACHELLE WALTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Lisa Porter, KP Law PC, Lake Oswego, OR Of Attorney for Plaintiff.

S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, and Ronald K. Silver, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, District of Oregon, Portland, OR Richard M. Rodriguez, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Seattle, WA, Of Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL H. SIMON, District Judge.

Marla Rachelle Walton seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying her application for Social Security Income ("SSI") and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Because the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the decision is AFFIRMED.

I. BACKGROUND

A. The Application

Ms. Walton filed applications for SSI and DIB on March 11, 2010, alleging disability as of December 31, 2005 due to chronic back pain, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"), bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"). AR 233-43, 263. Born in February 1968, Ms. Walton was 37 years old on the alleged disability onset date. AR 55, 233. She speaks English, completed school through the ninth grade, and obtained a GED. AR 57, 262, 271, 327. She has past work experience as a bookkeeper, caretaker, and a dishwasher. AR 264. The Commissioner denied Ms. Walton's applications initially and upon reconsideration, and she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 101-28, 131-60. After an administrative hearing, held on April 9, 2012, the ALJ found Ms. Walton not to be disabled. AR 20-29, 51. The Appeals Council denied Ms. Walton's subsequent request for review. AR 1-3. The ALJ's decision then became the final decision of the Commissioner, and Ms. Walton sought review in this Court.

B. The Sequential Analysis

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." Keyser v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (DIB); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (SSI); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). Each step is potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4); 416.920(a)(4). The five-step sequential process asks the following series of questions:

1. Is the claimant performing "substantial gainful activity?" 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i); 416.920(a)(4)(i). This activity is work involving significant mental or physical duties done or intended to be done for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1510; 416.910. If the claimant is performing such work, she is not disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i); 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful activity, the analysis proceeds to step two.
2. Is the claimant's impairment "severe" under the Commissioner's regulations? 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii); 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Unless expected to result in death, an impairment is "severe" if it significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1521(a); 416.921(a). This impairment must have lasted or must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509; 416.909. If the claimant does not have a severe impairment, the analysis ends. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii); 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant has a severe impairment, the analysis proceeds to step three.
3. Does the claimant's severe impairment "meet or equal" one or more of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, then the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii); 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the impairment does not meet or equal one or more of the listed impairments, the analysis proceeds beyond step three. At that point, the ALJ must evaluate medical and other relevant evidence to assess and determine the claimant's "residual functional capacity" ("RFC"). This is an assessment of work-related activities that the claimant may still perform on a regular and continuing basis, despite any limitations imposed by his or her impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e); 404.1545(b)-(c); 416.920(e); 416.945(b)-(c). After the ALJ determines the claimant's RFC, the analysis proceeds to step four.
4. Can the claimant perform his or her "past relevant work" with this RFC assessment? If so, then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv); 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant cannot perform his or her past relevant work, the analysis proceeds to step five.
5. Considering the claimant's RFC and age, education, and work experience, is the claimant able to make an adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy? If so, then the claimant is not disabled. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v); 416.920(a)(4)(v); 404.1560(c); ...

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