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Fielder v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 13, 2015

KEVIN P. FIELDER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

MERRILL SCHNEIDER, Schneider, Kerr & Gibney Law Offices, Portland, OR, Attorney for Plaintiff.

S. AMANDA MARSHALL, United States Attorney, District of Oregon, RONALD K. SILVER, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, OR, SARAH L. MARTIN, Social Security Administration Office of the General Counsel, Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MALCOLM F. MARSH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kevin P. Fielder seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g). For the reasons that follow, this court reverses the decision of the Commissioner and remands this matter pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §405 (g) for further administrative proceedings.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSI on September 16, 2010, alleging disability beginning January 1, 2005, due to learning difficulties and breathing problems.

Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). An ALJ held a hearing on October 1, 2012, at which plaintiff appeared with his attorney and testified. A vocational expert, Paul K. Morrison, also appeared at the hearing and testified. On October 17, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, and therefore, the ALJ' s decision became the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of review.

Born in 1978, plaintiff was 34 years old on the date of the ALJ' s adverse decision. Plaintiff has a ninth grade education. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a cannery worker and fast food worker.

THE ALJ'S DISABILITY ANALYSIS

The Conunissioner 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. § 416.920. Each step is potentially dispositive. The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. Valentine v. Commissioner Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009); Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999). At step five, the burden shifts to the Conunissioner to show that the claimant can do other work which exists in the national economy. Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012).

At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his application date, September 16, 2010. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: respiratory disorder, borderline intellectual functioning, and history of drug and alcohol abuse. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments, or combination of impairments, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment.

The ALJ assessed plaintiff with a residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform less than a full range of medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §416.967(c) with several additional work limitations. Plaintiff can lift and carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; can stand and walk for six out of eight hours; can sit for six out of eight hours; and should avoid concentrated exposure to dust, odors, fumes, and other environmental irritants. Plaintiff is also limited to performing simple routine tasks.

At step four, the ALJ found plaintiff is able to perform his past relevant work as both a cannery and fast food worker. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff has not been under a disability under the Social Security Act from September 16, 2010, through the date of the decision.

ISSUES ON REVIEW

On appeal to this court, plaintiff contends that the ALJ improperly found that his impairments did not ...


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