United States District Court, D. Oregon
Robyn M. Rebers, ROBYN M. REBERS, LLC, P.O. Box 3530, Wilsonville, Oregon 97070, Attorney for Plaintiff.
S. Amanda Marshall, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, District of Oregon, Ronald K. Silver, ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, 1000 S.W. Third Avenue, Suite 600, Portland, Oregon 97201-2902.
Sarah L. Martin, SPECIAL ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, 701 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2900 M/S 221A Seattle, Washington 98104-7075 Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION & ORDER
MARCO A. HERNANDEZ, District Judge.
Plaintiff Roland Hampton brings this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision to deny supplemental security income (SSI). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3)). I reverse the Commissioner's decision and remand for additional proceedings.
Plaintiff applied for SSI on July 29, 2010, alleging an onset date of January 1, 1997. Tr. 233, 236-39. His application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 157-66, 167-78.
On January 28, 2013, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 52-91. On February 6, 2013, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 9-27. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1-5.
Plaintiff alleges disability based on having ankylosing spondylitis, arthritis, chest pain, neuropathy, fatigue, depression, fibromyalgia, esophageal problems, and pain in his hips, low back, shoulders, hands, legs, eyes, and neck. Tr. 254, 268. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was thirty-nine years old. Tr. 22. He completed the twelfth grade. Tr. 115. He has no past relevant work. Tr. 22. Because the parties are familiar with the medical and other evidence of record, I refer to any additional relevant facts necessary to my decision in the discussion section below.
SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY EVALUATION
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), 1382c(3)(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 plaintiff's impairments, 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 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; 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
At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his July 29, 2010 application date. Tr. 19. The ALJ noted that although Plaintiff alleged an onset date of January 1, 1997, his prior SSI application had been denied and was res judicata for the period adjudicated in that determination concluding with the April 9, 2010 ALJ decision. Tr. 12. Next, at step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe impairments of ankylosing spondylitis, obesity, fibromyalgia, lumbar spine degenerative disc disease, chronic pain syndrome/myofascial pain syndrome, major depressive disorder/dysthymia, and learning ...