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Collingswood-Bonse v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 24, 2015

ELIZABETH A. COLLINGSWOOD-BONSE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

KATHRYN TASSINARI BRENT WELLS, Harder, Wells, Baron & Manning, P.C., Eugene, Oregon, Attorneys for plaintiff.

S. AMANDA MARSHALL, RONALD K. SILVER, United States Attorney's Office, Portland, Oregon, KATHY REIF, Office of the General Counsel Social Security Administration, Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANN AIKEN, District Judge.

Elizabeth Collingswood-Bonae ("plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act ("Act") to obtain judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's applications for Title II disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and Title XVI supplemental security income ("SSI"). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case is dismissed.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 1, 2009, plaintiff filed her most recent DIB and SSI applications.[1] Tr. 165-71. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 99-106, 112-16. On October 24, 2011, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), wherein plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified, as did a vocational expert ("VE"). Tr. 8-56. On December 2, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 61-72. After the Appeals Council denied her request for review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court. Tr. 1-4.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Born on December 30, 1967, plaintiff was 40 years old on the amended alleged onset date of disability[2] and 43 years old at the time of the hearing. Tr. 15. Plaintiff graduated from high school and attended three or four semesters of college. Tr. 17, 31-34. She previously worked as a baggage handler, restaurant server, and call center operator. Tr. 19-20, 212-19. Plaintiff alleges disability as of August 7, 2008, due to somatoform disorder, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD").

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).

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. First, the Commissioner considers whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled.

At step two, the Commissioner evaluates 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 the claimant does not have a severe impairment, she is not disabled.

At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's impairments, either singly or in combination, meet or equal "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 140-41; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is ...


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