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Meigs v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

January 23, 2015

ELLEN MAE MEIGS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Marlene Yesquen, Black, Chapman, Webber & Stevens, Medford, Oregon, Attorney for plaintiff.

S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, Ronald K. Silver, Assistant United States Attorney Portland, Oregon.

Richard M. Rodriquez, Social Security Administration, Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANN AIKENS, District Judge.

Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (the Act) to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner. The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under the Act. For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

On April 16, 2010, plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI. Tr. 201-15. Her applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 128-35, 145-49. On May 21, 2012, plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 43-75. On July 24, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 23-42. On August 15, 2013, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-6. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review.

Born in 1957, plaintiff was fifty-two years old as of the alleged onset date of disability. Tr. 201. Plaintiff completed the eleventh grade in high school and has past relevant work as a dining room attendant, lodging facilities manager, motel housekeeper, and motel housekeeping supervisor. Tr. 36, 48, 244. Plaintiff alleges disability since August 2009 primarily due to fibromyalgia and resulting pain. Tr. 46-47.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and internal quotations omitted). The court must weigh "both the evidence that supports and detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusions." Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). Variable interpretations of the evidence are insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is rational. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).

The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486 (9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant must demonstrate an "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected... to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.

At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in "substantial gainful activity" since the alleged onset of her disability. Tr. 28; Yuckert, 482 U.S. ...


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