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Banks v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

July 27, 2015

KRISTY L. BANKS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT E. JONES, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Kristy Banks appeals the Commissioner's decision denying her application for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). I AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

Banks initially filed concurrent applications under Title II and Title XVI, alleging disability beginning in February 2007. Admin. R. 66. Banks later amended her alleged onset of disability to August 2010. Her insured status under the Act expired on September 30, 2008. Thus Banks no longer qualifies for Title II benefits and seeks review of only her Title XVI claim. Pl.'s Br. 2.

The ALJ applied the sequential disability determination process described in the regulations. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987) (describing the sequential process). The ALJ found Banks's ability to perform basic work limited by a moderate disc bulge, a mood disorder, and a substance abuse disorder. Admin. R. 68. The ALJ found that, despite these impairments, Banks retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a range of light work with lifting or carrying up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, standing, walking, or sitting for up to 6 hours each during an 8 hour day, and limiting all postural activities such as stooping, bending, crouching, and so forth. The ALJ said she could perform only simple repetitive tasks and needed to limit her contact with the general public and her exposure to hazards. Admin. R. 71.

The ALJ compared Banks's RFC with the physical and mental demands of her previous job as a storage rental clerk and found that her RFC did not preclude performing that work as she had actually done it in the past. The vocational expert ("VE") testified that a person with Banks's RFC could perform the storage rental clerk job as it is generally performed in the national economy. Admin. R. 77. In addition, the VE testified that a person with Banks's RFC could perform other occupations in the national economy, such as document clerk, mail sorter, and office helper which represent hundreds of thousands of jobs in the national economy. Admin. R. 78. The ALJ concluded that Banks was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Admin. R. 79.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). Under this standard, the Commissioner's factual findings must be upheld if supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record even if evidence exists to support another rational interpretation. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995).

DISCUSSION

I. Claims of Error

Banks alleges the ALJ failed to assess her RFC accurately because he improperly discounted her subjective statements, the statements of her mother, Jayne Jones, and the statements of her treating mental health practitioners, Kristina Stewart, Q.M.H.P. and Gerald Peake, P.M.H.N.P.

II. Credibility Determination

In her application, Banks said she stopped working because of bursitis in the hips, tendinitis in the shoulders, chronic pain from fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, carpal tunnel syndrome, endometriosis, high blood pressure, a deformity of her right foot, and a deficiency of vitamin D. Admin. R. 320, 370. Banks said her medications made concentration difficult. Admin. R. 326. She estimated she could walk less than a block before needing to stop to rest and usually could not resume walking after resting. Admin. R. 331.

In her hearing testimony, Banks said that she stopped working in 2007 because she became pregnant and her chronic pain became worse. Admin. R. 9. She said she continued to be unable to work because she could not focus and she needed to be with her children to protect them from pedophiles. Admin. R. 10, 16. In addition, Banks said her hands no longer worked, due to nerve damage, and her feet, knees, and hips kept her from "being able to do stuff." Admin. R. 12. ...


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