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Simonian v. Colvin

United States District Court, District of Oregon

December 12, 2014

REGINA E. SIMONIAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

Lisa R.J. Porter, KP Law PC, Attorney for Plaintiff

Adrian L. Brown Ronald K. Silver U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Oregon, Richard Rodriguez Office of General Counsel, Attorneys for Defendant

OPINION & ORDER

MARCO A. HERINÁNDEZ, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Regina E. Simonian brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act. I have jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)). For the following reasons, I reverse the Commissioner’s decision and remand for additional proceedings.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born in 1958 (Tr. 177) and was 46 years old at the alleged onset of disability. Tr. 179. She completed the eleventh grade (Tr. 42) and reports past work as a day care provider, cashier, housekeeper, and bank teller. Tr. 211. Plaintiff alleged disability since September 15, 2005 (Tr. 179) due to blindness, spinal bifida, bladder control issues, migraines, sciatica, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. Tr. 70.

The Commissioner denied her application initially and upon reconsideration (Tr. 70–86, 87–119), and an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing on March 13, 2013. Tr. 38– 69. The ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled on April 25, 2013. Tr. 22–37. The Appeals Council declined review of the matter on November 5, 2013, making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1–5.

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. 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 (RFC) 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. ยงยง 404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the Commissioner meets his burden and proves that the ...


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