United States District Court, D. Oregon
SHIREE L. BOYCE, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Kathryn Tassinari and Brent Wells, HARDER, WELLS, BARON & MANNING, P.C., 474 Willamette, OR, Of Attorneys for Plaintiff.
S. Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney, and Ronald K. Silver, Assistant United States Attorney, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, District of Oregon, Portland, OR, Daphne Banay, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Seattle, WA, Of Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL H. SIMON, District Judge.
Shiree L. Boyce seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying her applications for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
Ms. Boyce was born in 1981 and was 28 years old at the time of her first administrative hearing in 2010. Tr. 31. She speaks English, has a high school education, and has some training in massage therapy. Id. She has past work experience as a fast-food worker, a hostess, a pawnbroker, a sales clerk, a call-center service worker, a grocery checker, a salvage laborer, and a home attendant. Tr. 60-62, 251. Ms. Boyce alleges that she is disabled due to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, injuries in her feet and in her left knee, and back problems. Tr. 146.
On August 22, 2008, Ms. Boyce protectively filed applications for SSI and DIB alleging that she became disabled on June 1, 2004. Tr. 121-28. Her claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration, and she requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). Tr. 75-92, 93-94. A hearing was held on April 28, 2010 before ALJ Marilyn Mauer. Tr. 27-70. At the hearing, Ms. Boyce amended her alleged onset date to July 1, 2008. Tr. 30. The ALJ issued a decision finding Ms. Boyce not disabled through June 8, 2010. Tr. 12-26. On July 8, 2011, the Appeals Council ("AC") denied Ms. Boyce's subsequent request for review, making the ALJ's decision final and entitling Ms. Boyce to review in this Court. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Tr. 1-3.
Upon review, this Court reversed the Agency's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. Tr. 529-49. A remand hearing was held on October 16, 2013, and Ms. Boyce amended her applications to seek a closed period of disability beginning July 1, 2008 and ending May 31, 2011. Tr. 445-55. On January 16, 2014, ALJ Maurer denied Ms. Boyce's amended claims. Tr. 421-38. The AC denied review, making the ALJ's decision final and once again entitling Ms. Boyce to review in this Court.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
A claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act if he or she is unable to "engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or 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). To determine whether an individual meets this standard, social security regulations dictate a five-step inquiry in which each step is potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; see Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); Keyser v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011).
At step one, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity"; if so, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). The ALJ found that Ms. Boyce had not engaged in substantial gainful activity between July 1, 2008 and May 31, 2011, the requested closed period of disability. Tr. 423.
At step two, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a "medically severe impairment or combination of impairments." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). At this step, the ALJ determined that Ms. Boyce had the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of the left knee; mild degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine at L5-S1; obesity; affective disorder; posttraumatic stress disorder; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; math disorder; and disorder of written expression. Tr. 423.
At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's severe impairments "meet or equal" one or more of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the "Listings"). 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). Here, the ALJ found that Ms. Boyce did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a listed impairment. Tr. 424.
At step four, the Commissioner determines the claimant's "residual functional capacity" ("RFC") and whether it is sufficient to allow the claimant to perform his or her "past relevant work." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). The ALJ determined that Ms. Boyce had the RFC to perform sedentary work with the following limitations: she could lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; she could stand and walk no more than two hours in an eight-hour workday; she could sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday; she should never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; she could occasionally climb stairs and ramps; she could occasionally bend, crouch, and stoop; she should never crawl or kneel; she should have no exposure to hazards; she could have occasional contact with the public; and she could ...