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Barrington v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division

October 20, 2014

CRYSTAL G. BARRINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYNW. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT E. JONES, District Judge.

Plaintiff Crystal Barrington appeals the Commissioner's decision denying in part her concurrent applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. This court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). I AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

Barrington alleged disability beginning September 16, 2009, due to epilepsy, migraines, degenerative disc disease, obesity, depression, anxiety, memory loss, confusion, insomnia, and osteoporosis. Admin. R. 221. In June 2009, Banington experienced a generalized seizure and began treatment with anticonvulsant medication.Admin. R. 27, 408-10.On September 30, 2009, Barrington reported a second, milder seizure while in bed at night. Admin. R. 27, 412. She stopped working on September 16, 2009, the alleged onset date of her disability. Admin. R. 26, 191.

The ALJ applied the five-step sequential process described in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520, to determine whether Barrington was disabled. Admin. R. 26-33. The ALJ found that, from September 16, 2009 through March 31, 2011, Barrington's combined impairments satisfied the diagnostic and severity criteria for presumptively disabling epilepsy under Listing 11.03 of 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Admin. R. 26. Accordingly, the ALJ found that Barrington was disabled for the purposes of the Social Security Act for that period. Admin. R. 28.

The ALJ determined that Banington's medical condition improved with treatment and that by April 1, 2011, her impairments no longer satisfied the severity criteria for Listing 11.03. Admin. R. 29. The ALJ found that Barrington's ability to work continued to be limited, although to a lesser degree, by the combined effects of a seizure disorder, migraines, degenerative disc disease, arthropathy and osteopenia in the lumbosacral spine, obesity, depression, and anxiety. Admin. R. 26, 28.

The ALJ then assessed Barrington's residual functional capacity ("RFC") beginning April 1, 2011. He concluded that she could perform a wide range of work at all exertional levels, provided the work did not involve climbing or concentrated exposure to hazards. Admin. R. 30. The ALJ found that Barrington's past relevant work as an Accounting Clerk and Office Manager did not require work related activities precluded by the limitations in her RFC. Admin. R. 33. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Barrington's disability ended by April 1, 2011, and she was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act on or after that date. Admin. R. 33.

Barrington requested review by the Appeals Council and submitted additional evidence created after the ALJ's decision, including a Jackson County Mental Health assessment and chart notes from appointments she had with her neurologist after the ALJ issued his decision. Admin. R. 2. The Appeals Council found that the new evidence related to a later time than the period under consideration by the ALJ. The Appeals Council did not consider the new documentation or include it in the administrative record for Barrington's present claim. Admin. R. 2, 6. When the Appeals Council declined to review the matter, the ALJ's decision became the final agency decision which is now on appeal to this court. Admin. R. 2. 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; Brewes v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161-62 (9th Cir. 2012).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006). The Commissioner's factual findings must be upheld if supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record, even if evidence exists to support another rational interpretation. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995).

DISCUSSION

I. Claims of Error

Barrington contends the ALJ improperly discounted her credibility and rejected the lay witness statement of Kimberly Fjarli-Owen. Barrington contends the ALJ improperly rejected the opinion of Kevin Sullivan, M.D., the neurologist who treated her for seizures. She contends the ALJ failed to consider the combined effects of her impairments. Barrington contends the ALJ elicited testimony from the vocational expert ("VE") with hypothetical questions that did not accurately reflect her functional ...


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