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Jones v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. Oregon

October 31, 2014

TAMARA JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

Bruce W. Brewer, West Linn, OR, Attorney for Plaintiff.

S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, District of Oregon, Ronald K. Silver, Assistant United States Attorney U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, DISTRICT OF OREGON, Portland, OR.

Jordan D. Goddard, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION Office of the General Counsel, Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

MARCO A. HERNNDEZ, District Judge.

Plaintiff Tamara Jones brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)). I reverse the Commissioner's decision and remand for additional proceedings on the issue of Plaintiff's credibility and the weight given to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff applied for SSI on September 13, 2010, alleging an onset date of March 2, 2007. Tr. 92-97. Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 54-62, 73-76, 63-72, 81-82.

On May 10, 2012, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 27-53. During the hearing, she amended her alleged onset date to August 13, 2010. Tr. 30. On June 11, 2012, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 9-26. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1-6.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges disability based on cervical spine disease and lumbar spine disease. Tr. 145. In addition, Plaintiff alleges pain in her legs and back, an inability to turn her head without a lot of pain, numbness in the fingers of her left hand, loss of strength and control of her left hand, and headaches. Tr. 135. She was forty-five years old at the time of the administrative hearing. Tr. 30. She attended high school through the twelfth grade and has past work experience as a temporary worker, package shipper, cashier, and farmworker. Tr. 31, 146. Because the parties are familiar with the medical and other evidence in the record, I refer to any additional relevant facts necessary to my decision in the discussion section below.

SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY ANALYSIS

A claimant is disabled if 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).

Disability claims are evaluated according to a five-step procedure. See Valentine v. Comm'r, 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009) (in social security cases, agency uses five-step procedure to determine disability). The claimant bears the ultimate burden of proving disability. Id.

In the first step, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." If so, the claimant is not disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). In step two, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a "medically severe impairment or combination of impairments." Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137 at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If not, the claimant is not disabled.

In step three, the Commissioner determines whether the impairment meets or equals "one of a number of listed impairments that the [Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.

In step four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant, despite any impairment(s), has the residual functional capacity to perform "past relevant work." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If the claimant can, the claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. In step five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can perform other work. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the Commissioner meets his burden and proves ...


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