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Coaty v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 11, 2015

EMILY COATY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Michael A. Halliday, Halliday Law, PC, Salem, Oregon, Attorney for plaintiff.

S. Amanda Marshall, Adrian L. Brown, Ronald K. Silver, United States Attorney's Office, Portland, Oregon, Diana Swisher Andsager, Social Security Administration, Office of General Counsel, Seattle, Washington, Attorneys for defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANN AIKEN, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Emily Coaty 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 application for Title II disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed and this case is dismissed.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On May 6, 2010, plaintiff applied for DIB. Tr. 125-28. Her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 86-90, 92-95. On March 28, 2012, 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. 34-81. On April 9, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 21-28. After the Appeals Council denied her request for review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court.[1] Tr. 5-14.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Born on January 26, 1975, plaintiff was 31 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 37 years old at the time of the hearing. Tr. 41, 125. Plaintiff graduated from high school and a four-year college program. Tr. 43, 219. She worked previously as a cook helper, receptionist, and human resources clerk. Tr. 44-47, 76, 139. Plaintiff alleges disability as of January 13, 2007, due to a motor vehicle accident, which resulted in "[b]ack problems[, ] lumbar pain, " and fibromyalgia. Tr. 125, 160; Pl.'s Opening Br. 2.

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. § 404.1502. First, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." Yuckert , 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(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). 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). If so, the claimant is ...


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