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Samples v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 10, 2015

DAWN E. SAMPLES, Plaintiff
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

For plaintiff: Alan Stuart Graf, Alan Stuart Graf P.C., Floyd, VA.

For defendant: S. Amanda Marshall, Ronald K. Silver, Portland, OR; Jordan D. Goddard, Social Security Administration, Seattle, WA.

OPINION AND ORDER

Ann Aiken, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Dawn Samples brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain judicial review of the Commissioner's decision denying her disability benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § § 416 and 423. The Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded for an award of benefits.

BACKGROUND

On November 4, 2004, plaintiff filed Title II and Title XVI applications alleging disability beginning September 1, 2002. Tr. 610. Both applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. On November 28, 2005, plaintiff appeared at her first hearing in front of Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Gary Elliott. Tr. 628. On March 17, 2006, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. Tr. 610-619. Plaintiff then sought review with the Appeals Council. On July 21, 2006, the Appeals Council granted plaintiff's request for review and remanded the case to the ALJ with instructions to " obtain supplemental evidence from a vocational expert to clarify the effect of the assessed limitations on the claimant's occupational base." Tr. 628.

On January 8, 2007, plaintiff appeared at a second hearing in front of ALJ William L. Stewart, Jr. Tr. 706. On February 20, 2007, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. Tr. 644-653. Plaintiff sought review from the Appeals Council, and on June 11, 2007, the Appeals Council again remanded the case, noting that the RFC did not include " claimant's residual functional capacity in specific terms with appropriate references to pertinent evidence." Tr. 655. The Appeals Council directed that " the hypothetical questions should reflect the specific capacity/limitations established by the record as a whole." Tr. 666.

On November 16, 2007, a third hearing was held in front of ALJ Stewart. On April 4, 2008, the ALJ issued another unfavorable decision. Tr. 2-34. On April 1, 2009, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 13. On June 1, 2009, plaintiff appealed the Commissioner's final decision to the United States District Court. See Samples v. Commissioner, 3:09-cv-06152-JO. The parties fully briefed the case and on May 3, 2010, the District Court affirmed the decision of the Commissioner to deny benefits. On June 30, 2010, plaintiff appealed the District Court's decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On January 12, 2012, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its memorandum opinion. Tr. 7 87. The Ninth Circuit found that the ALJ improperly ignored a physician's opinion that plaintiff is limited in her ability to interact with supervisors and accept criticism in the workplace.

On April 23, 2012, the Appeals Council vacated the final decision of the Commissioner " for further proceedings consistent with the order of the court." Tr. 7 95. The Appeals Council also affirmed the finding of a state agency that plaintiff was disabled as of January 24, 2011, for purposes of disability benefits under Title XVI. Plaintiff was deemed not eligible under Title II, as plaintiff's last date insured was June 30, 2009. Tr. 764, 795. On remand, the ALJ was instructed to " determine if [plaintiff] was disabled at any time from her alleged onset date of September 1, 2002, through her date last insured for Title II, and through January 23, 2011, for Title XVI, based on the applications for Title II filed on June 17, 2004, and Title XVI filed on June 28, 2004." Tr. 795.

On November 27, 2012, a fourth hearing was held in front of ALJ Marilyn S. Mauer, and a fifth hearing on May 7, 2013. Tr. 764. On May 24, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff disabled as of November 9, 2010, for purposes of Title XVI. Thus, the ALJ denied plaintiff's Title II application based on her date last insured. Tr. 764-778. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review.

Plaintiff was forty-six years old at the time of her alleged disability onset date and fifty-five years old on the day the ALJ found that her disability began. Tr. 93. She earned a General Equivalence Degree (GED) and worked in the past as a kitchen helper and a coffee maker/fast food worker. Tr. 118, 1072-1075. Plaintiff alleges disability since September 1, 2002, due to fibromyalgia, mild inflammatory arthritis, lumbar degenerative joint disease and degenerative disc disease, depression, and anxiety.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

This 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, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B.,305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126 (1938)). The court must weigh " both the ...


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