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Owen v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

October 28, 2014


ARTHUR WILBER STEVENS, III, Black Chapman Webber & Stevens, Medford, 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.


MALCOLM F. MARSH, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Shawn Lenor Owen, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying her application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the Act). See 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. 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 an application for DIB on March 12, 2008, alleging disability beginning January 1, 2007, caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, ulcerative colitis, depression, and anxiety. Tr. 148. Plaintiff's date last insured is June 30, 2010. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's claim initially and upon reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on January 4, 2011, at which Plaintiff testified and was represented by counsel. Tr. 37-58. In addition, vocational expert Nancy Bloom was present throughout the hearing and testified. Tr. 58-69.

On January 12, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application. Tr. 15-25. The Appeals Council declined review and Plaintiff timely appealed to this Court. Tr. 1-3.


Born on May 13, 1964, Plaintiff was 42 years old on the application date and 46 years old on the date of the hearing. Tr. 150. Plaintiff has an eleventh-grade education and past relevant work as a House Worker. Tr. 23, 152.

In addition to her hearing testimony, Plaintiff submitted three Adult Function Reports and a Drug and Alcohol Use Questionnaire. Tr. 154-61, 162-69, 213-20, 222-24. Plaintiff's then-husband, Donald R. Napier, and friend Loralee L. Ball, each submitted Third Party Function Reports. Tr. 189-96, 225-33. Although the record does not contain the opinion of any treating or examining physician, Paul Rethinger, Ph.D., reviewed Plaintiff's records and submitted a Psychiatric Review Technique, and Neal E. Berner, M.D., reviewed Plaintiff's medical records and submitted a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment. Tr. 453-66, 481-88.


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 AUJ determined that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period between her alleged onset date of January 1, 2007, and her date last insured on June 30, 2010. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq.; Tr. 17.

At Step Two the ALJ found that Plaintiff's COPD was a severe impairment. The ALJ additionally found that Plaintiff's anxiety was a medically determinable, though non-severe, impairment. The ALJ found Plaintiff's "gastrointestinal impairment is non-medically determinable." See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c); Tr. 17-20.

At Step Three the ALJ determined Plaintiff does 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; Tr. 20-21.

The ALJ found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work, including standing and walking approximately two hours, and sitting approximately six hours in an eight-hour workday. In addition, the ALJ found Plaintiff can lift up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, and further limited Plaintiff to occasional crawling, climbing ladders, ropes, scaffolds, ramps, and stairs; and frequent balancing, stooping, kneeling, and crouching. Finally, the ALJ found Plaintiff must avoid even moderate exposure to "dusts, fumes, odors, [and] chemical vapors, etc." Tr. 21-23.

At Step Four the ALJ found Plaintiff is unable to perform any of her past relevant work. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1565; Tr. 23.

At Step Five, however, the ALJ found lobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, including Type Copy Examiner, Sack Repairer, and Stuffer. ...

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