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Lamprecht v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 19, 2015

SHARLYWANA LAMPRECHT, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MARK D. CLARKE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Sharlywana Lamprecht ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") 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) and 1383(c). Because the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, it is affirmed and this matter is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born in September 1962, and completed the eleventh grade. Tr. 50. She has worked as a security guard, a waitress, and a housekeeper. Tr. 71.

Plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSI on October 1, 2008, alleging disability since July 1, 2007 due to "lower back injury, carpal tunnel syndrom in both arms, bipolar disorder, lupus, rotator cuff damage, sciatic nerve damage in right leg, heart murmur." Tr. 207. The Commissioner denied her application initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 80-84. At Plaintiff's request, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on May 24, 2012. Tr. 43-79. On June 29, 2012, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 13-32. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-6. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of that decision.

DISABILITY ANALYSIS

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. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011); see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(SSI); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). Each step is potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4); 416.920(a)(4). The five-step sequential process asks the following series of questions:

1. Is the claimant performing "substantial gainful activity?" 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i); 416.920(a)(4)(I). This activity is work involving significant mental or physical duties done or intended to be done for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1510; 416.910. If the claimant is performing such work, she is not disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i); 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful activity, the analysis proceeds to step two.
2. Is the claimant's impairment "severe" under the Commissioner's regulations? 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii); 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Unless expected to result in death, an impairment is "severe" if it significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1521(a); 416.921(a). This impairment must have lasted or must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509; 416.909. If the claimant does not have a severe impairment, the analysis ends. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii); 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant has a severe impairment, the analysis proceeds to step three.
3. Does the claimant's severe impairment "meet or equal" one or more of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, then the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii); 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the impairment does not meet or equal one or more of the listed impairments, the analysis proceeds beyond step three. At that point, the ALJ must evaluate medical and other relevant evidence to assess and determine the claimant's "residual functional capacity" ("RFC"). This is an assessment of work-related activities that the claimant may still perform on a regular and continuing basis, despite any limitations imposed by his or her impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e); 404.1545(b)-(c); 416.920(e); 416.945(b)-(c). After the ALJ determines the claimant's RFC, the analysis proceeds to step four.
4. Can the claimant perform his or her "past relevant work" with this RFC assessment? If so, then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§404.1520(a)(4)(iv); 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant cannot perform his or her past relevant work, the analysis proceeds to step five.
5. Considering the claimant's RFC and age, education, and work experience, is the claimant able to make an adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy? If so, then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v); 416.920(a)(4)(v); 404.1560(c); 416.960(c). If the claimant cannot perform such work, he or she is disabled. Id.

See also Bustamante v. Massanari, 262. F.3d 949, 954 (9th Cir. 2001).

The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. Id. at 953; see also Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1100 (9th Cir. 1999); Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41. The Commissioner bears the burden of proof at step five. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1100. At step five, the Commissioner must show that 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." Id.; see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566; 416.966 (describing "work which exists in the national economy"). If the Commissioner fails to meet this burden, the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v); 416.920(a)(4)(v). If, however, the Commissioner proves that the claimant is able to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy, the claimant is not disabled. Bustamante, 262 F.3d at 953-54; Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1099.

THE ALJ'S FINDINGS

The ALJ applied the sequential process. At step one, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. Tr. 22. At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff's mechanical low back pain, obesity, shoulder tendonitis, depressive disorder NOS, and generalized anxiety disorder were severe impairments. Id. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled one of the specific impairments listed in the regulations. Tr. 23.

The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work with the following restrictions: she can engage in push/pull activities with her upper extremities frequently, she can balance, crouch, and crawl frequently, but she can climb, stoop, and kneel no more than occasionally. She can understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions learnable after a brief demonstration or within 30 days. She can have occasional contact with the public and co-workers. Tr. 24. In reaching his conclusion, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's testimony, but found her not fully credible. Tr. 29. At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff had no past relevant work. Tr. 30. Considering Plaintiff's age, education, experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was capable of performing jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, including marking clerk, assembler, and sorter. Tr. 31. Therefore, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Social Security Act, since the date of her application. Id.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on the proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). "Substantial evidence" means "more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance." Bray v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2009)(quoting Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th ...


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