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Scothern v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 10, 2015

TRELAUNI SCOTHERN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

Rory Linerud, Linerud Law Firm, Salem, OR, Attorney for Plaintiff.

S. Amanda Marshall, U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Oregon, Portland, OR.

Lars J. Nelson, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel, Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

MARCO A. HERNANDEZ, District Judge.

Plaintiff Trelauni Scothern ("plaintiff") seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title 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 December, 1977, plaintiff was 27 years old on alleged onset date of December 6, 2004, which she later amended to April 8, 2005. Tr. 537, 556. She speaks English and completed high school with special education classes. Tr. 556-57. Plaintiff has past work experience as a landscaper, commercial dehydrator, and horse trainer and caretaker. Tr. 49, 143, 220, 240, 692, 698, 799, 1002. Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on April 8, 2005, alleging disability due to fibromyalgia, migraines, asthma, learning disorder, depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and asocial personality disorder. Tr. 543.

The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application initially and upon reconsideration, and she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Tr. 42-47. An administrative hearing was held on February 11, 2008 before ALJ Jean Kingrey. Tr. 454-516. On February 29, 2008, ALJ Kingrey issued a written decision denying plaintiff's application. Tr. 14-21. The Commissioner's decision was reversed and remanded by order of U.S. District Court Judge Ancer Haggerty on March 16, 2010. Tr. 574-78. The Appeals Council accordingly remanded the case to the ALJ with instructions. Tr. 581-85.

Prior to Judge Haggerty's order, plaintiff filed another application for SSI on September 22, 2008, alleging a disability onset date of December 6, 2004. Tr. 538. That application was consolidated with plaintiff's 2005 SSI application by order of the Appeals Council on June 8, 2010.[1] Tr. 585.

On remand, ALJ John J. Madden, Jr., considered plaintiff's consolidated application for SSI. On December 2, 2011, ALJ Madden issued a written decision denying plaintiff's claim. Tr. 540-58. The Appeals Council declined to assume jurisdiction, making the ALJ's decision the final Agency decision. 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. § 416.920(b). At step two, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a "medically severe impairment or combination of impairments." ...


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