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Strand v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 27, 2015

ROBERTA STRAND, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. McSHANE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Roberta Strand brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401-433. This court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). Plaintiff seeks an Order reversing the decision of the Commissioner and remanding the action to the Social Security Administration for an award of benefits.

For the following reasons, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Ms. Roberta Strand, filed an application for DIB benefits on 11/9/2009, alleging disability starting 10/29/2009. (Tr. 49). The claim was denied, after which Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) of the Social Security Administration. The hearing was held on 10/4/2011 (Tr. 28-48, 60-61). The All issued a decision on 10/20/2011, finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 13-27). Plaintiff timely requested the Appeals Council to review the ALF's decision, but the request was denied via letter dated 6/8/2013. (Tr. 1-6). This action resulted in the ALF's 10/20/2011 decision becoming the final order of the agency from which Plaintiff now appeals to this Court. Plaintiff alleges disability beginning 10/29/2009 based on a combination of impairments, including rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and depression (Tr. 18, 231, 233, and 141-146). Due to these impairments, Plaintiff has suffered from pain in her hands, wrists, hips, feet, and knees. [#14 at pp. 2-3].

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A claimant is disabled if he or she is 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). "Social Security Regulations set out a five-step sequential process for determining whether an applicant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act." Keyser v. Commissioner, 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011). The five steps proceed as follows:

1. Is the claimant presently working in a substantially gainful activity? If so, the claimant is not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. If not, proceed to step two. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b).

2. Is the claimant's impairment severe? If so, proceed to step three. If not, the claimant is not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c).

3. Does the impairment "meet or equal" one or more of the specific impairments described in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpart. P, App. 1? If so, the claimant is disabled. If not, proceed to step four. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).

4. Is the claimant able to do any work that he or she has done in the past? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, proceed to step five. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).

5. Is the claimant able to do any other work? If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f).

The claimant bears the burden of proof for the first four steps in the process. Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953 (9th Cir. 2001); see also Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-41 (1987). The Commissioner bears the burden of proof at step five of the process, where the Commissioner must show the claimant can perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, "taking into consideration the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education, and work experience." Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1100 (9th Cir. 1999); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1566 (describing "work which exists in the national economy"). If the Commissioner fails to meet this burden, then the claimant is disabled. If, however, the Commissioner proves that the claimant is able to perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, then the claimant is not disabled. Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d at 953-54.

The reviewing court shall affirm the Commissioner's decision if the decision is based on proper legal standards and the legal findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r for Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). To determine whether substantial evidence exists, we review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and which detracts from the ALJ's ...


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