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Thomas v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 21, 2017

FLORENCE MARIE THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          George J. Wall Attorney for Plaintiff

          Billy J. Williams Janice E. Hebert Erin F. Highland Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER

          Marco A. Hernandez United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Florence Thomas brings this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision to deny disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3)). I affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI on December 5, 2011, alleging an onset date of June 15, 2006. Tr. 220-29. Her applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 61, 63-73 (DIB, initial); Tr. 62, 74-84, 122-25 (SSI, initial); Tr. 85, 87-100, 129-33 (DIB, reconsideration); Tr. 86, 101-14, 134-39 (SSI, reconsideration). On December 12, 2013, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 37-58. On January 9, 2014, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 16-36. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 5-9.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges disability based on having fibromyalgia, arthritis, and bilateral neuropathy. Tr. 280. At the time of the hearing, she was fifty-three years old. Tr. 41. She completed two years of college and one year of vocational school. Id. She has past relevant work experience as a pharmacy technician, fast food supervisor/assistant manager, cashier checker, sales clerk, and nursing assistant. Tr. 54.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY EVALUATION

         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), 1382c(3)(a).

         Disability claims are evaluated according to a five-step procedure. See Valentine v. Comm'r, 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009) (in social security cases, agency uses five-step procedure to determine disability). The claimant bears the ultimate burden of proving disability. Id.

         In the first step, 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). In 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.

         In step three, the Commissioner determines whether plaintiff's impairments, singly or in combination, meet or equal "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.

         In step four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant, despite any impairment(s), has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform "past relevant work." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If the claimant can, the claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. In step five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can perform other work. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. ยงยง 404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the Commissioner meets his burden and proves that the ...


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