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Dunn v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 3, 2015

RANDY DUNN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

Tim Wilborn Wilborn Law Office, P.C. Las Vegas, NV, Attorney for Plaintiff.

S. Amanda Marshall 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 Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

MARCO A. HERNNDEZ, District Judge.

Plaintiff Randy Dunn ("plaintiff") seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying his applications for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. This court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). Because the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the decision is AFFIRMED.

BACKGROUND

Born in August, 1966, plaintiff was 37 years old on his alleged onset date of February 23, 2004. Tr. 668. He speaks English, attended special education classes in school, and has 17 years' experience as a glass worker and glazer installing windows in automobiles and in homes. Tr. 190-91, 669, 707. Plaintiff filed applications for SSI and DIB on June 17, 2004, alleging disability due to a combination of impairments including Raynaud's Phenomenon in both hands, lumbar spondylosis, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"), anxiety, and learning disorders. Tr. 113-15, 190, 749.

The Commissioner denied plaintiff's applications initially and upon reconsideration, and he filed a civil action in this court. The parties submitted a stipulation for remand to the district court, and the court issued an order remanding the case to the Agency on October 5, 2011. Tr. 771-75. The remand order directed the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") to provide an opportunity for a new hearing and issue a new decision after reassessing and addressing "all of the medical evidence of record" as well as the lay testimony, plaintiff's credibility, and plaintiff's residual functional capacity. Tr. 771-72. After an administrative hearing was held on December 6, 2012, ALJ John Madden issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled on January 30, 2013. Tr. 749-59. The Appeals Council declined to assume jurisdiction on December 18, 2013, making the ALJ's decision the final Agency decision. Tr. 738-41; 20 C.F.R. § 422.210 (2014). This appeal followed.

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; Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-1100 (9th Cir. 1999); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the Commissioner meets his burden and proves that the claimant is able to perform other work which exists in the national economy, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.

THE ALJ'S DECISION

The ALJ performed the sequential analysis. At step one, he found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date. Tr. 751. At step two, the ALJ found plaintiff had the following severe impairments: Raynaud's disease, mild spondylosis at L5-S1, bipolar disorder, ADHD, learning disorder not otherwise specified ("NOS"), and a history of alcohol and marijuana abuse. Tr. 752. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment. Id.

The ALJ next assessed plaintiff's RFC and determined that plaintiff retained the ability to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with the following limitations: he can engage in frequent, but not constant, handling and fingering bilaterally; he must avoid even moderate exposure to extreme cold or vibration; and he is limited to no more than simple, repetitive tasks of 1-2 steps that involve limited public contact. Tr. 753-54. At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff is unable to perform his past relevant work as a glass installer and glazer. Tr. 757. At step five, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff could perform jobs that exist in significant ...


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