United States District Court, D. Oregon
Merrill Schneider, Schneider, Kerr & Gibney Law Offices, Portland, OR, Attorney for Plaintiff.
Ronald K. Silver, U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Oregon, Portland, OR, Gerald J. Hill, Social Security Administration, Office of General Counsel, Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendant.
MARCO A. HERNNDEZ, District Judge.
Plaintiff Susan Bishop brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)). For the following reasons, this Court reverses and remands the Commissioner's decision for further proceedings.
Born in 1969, Bishop was 43 years old at the time of the administrative hearing. Tr. 54, 36. She dropped out of school before passing the ninth grade. Tr. 40, 218. Her employment history includes a few weeks in construction clean up, approximately three months as a prep cook, and various "work experiences" through the Department of Human Services ("DHS") Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Tr. 177, 225. Bishop is diagnosed with depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline intellectual functioning, and chronic pain disorder. Tr. 224-243. She alleges her ability to work is limited by lower back pain, arthritis in both hands, and "significant rapid weight gain." Tr. 161.
She applied for benefits on June 23, 2010, alleging disability as of June 23, 2010, but also claims she was disabled prior to age 22. Tr. 148. The Commissioner denied her application initially and upon reconsideration, and Bishop requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Tr. 69. On June 19, 2012, she appeared before ALJ David J. DeLaittre, represented by Casey Cox. Tr. 36. The ALJ found Bishop was not disabled on October 25, 2012. Tr. 17-35. The Appeals Council denied Bishop's subsequent request for review on January 31, 2014, making the ALJ's decision the final Agency decision. Tr. 1-6. She now seeks judicial review of that decision.
SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY ANALYSIS
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).
A five-step procedure is used to evaluate disability claims. Valentine v. Comm'r , 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009). The claimant bears the burden of proving disability. Id.
At step one, 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). At 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.
For the third step, the Commissioner determines whether the impairment meets or equals "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.
During step four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant, despite any impairment, has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform "past relevant work." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the burden shifts to the Commissioner.
For step five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can perform other work that exists in the national economy. Yuckert , 482 U.S. at 141-42; Tackett v. Apfel , 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-1100 (9th Cir. 1999); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
At step one, the ALJ determined Bishop had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her June 23, 2010 application date. Tr. 22. At step two, the ALJ found she had the following severe impairments: depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline intellectual functioning, and chronic pain disorder. Id. At step three, the ALJ decided Bishop's impairments did not meet or equal, either singly or in combination, a listed impairment. Tr. 23.
At step four, the ALJ established Bishop has the RFC to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b), with limitations. The ALJ found she is limited to lifting and/or carrying no more than 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, walking and/or standing up to 6 hours in an 8 hour work day with normal breaks, sitting no less than 2 hours in an eight hour work day with normal breaks, and occasional stooping. Tr. 25. The ALJ also determined that Bishop is limited to one to two step simple tasks and simple reading and math and limited in her contact with the general public. Id. With this RFC, the ALJ established Bishop is unable to perform any of her past relevant work. Tr. 29. However, at step five, the ALJ decided that Bishop could perform jobs that exist ...