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Squier v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 24, 2017

CHERI SQUIER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Merrill Schneider Schneider Kerr & Robichaux Attorney for Plaintiff

          Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney Janice Hebert, Asst. U.S. Attorney Lorna Li Special Asst. U.S. Attorney Office of the General Counsel Social Security Administration Attorneys for Defendants

          OPINION AND ORDER

          John Jelderks U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Cheri Squier brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under the Social Security Act (the Act). Plaintiff seeks an Order remanding the action to the Social Security Administration (the Agency) for an award of benefits. The Commissioner concedes reversible error and moves the Court to remand for additional administrative proceedings.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and the motion for remand for additional proceedings is granted.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and DIB on January 30, 2012, alleging she had been disabled since July 19, 2010.

         After her claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff timely requested an administrative hearing.

         On January 10, 2014, a video hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) John Michaelsen. Plaintiff and Kathleen O'Gieblyn, a vocational expert (VE), testified at the hearing. Plaintiff was represented by counsel.

         In a decision dated February 14, 2014, ALJ Michaelsen found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.

         On May 11, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. In the present action, Plaintiff challenges that decision.

         Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1969 and was 44 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. Plaintiff completed the 11th grade and has past relevant work as a medical records clerk, office clerk, managed care coordinator, managed care clerk and office specialist clerk.

         Disability Analysis

         The ALJ engages in a five-step sequential inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. Below is a summary of the five steps, which also are described in Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999).

         Step One. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). A claimant engaged in such activity is not disabled. If the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner proceeds to evaluate the claimant's case under Step Two. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).

         Step Two. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant has one or more severe impairments. A claimant who does not have such an impairment is not disabled. If the claimant has a severe impairment, the Commissioner proceeds to evaluate the claimant's case under Step Three. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).

         Step Three. Disability cannot be based solely on a severe impairment; therefore, the Commissioner next determines whether the claimant's impairment “meets or equals” one of the presumptively disabling impairments listed in the Social Security Administration (SSA)

         regulations, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. A claimant who has such an impairment is disabled. If the claimant's impairment does not meet or equal an impairment listed in the regulations, the Commissioner's evaluation of the claimant's case proceeds under Step Four. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d).

         Step Four. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is able to perform relevant work he or she has done in the past. A claimant who can perform past relevant work is not disabled. If the claimant demonstrates he or she cannot do work performed in the past, the Commissioner's evaluation of the claimant's case proceeds under Step Five. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).

         Step Five. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is able to do any other work. A claimant who cannot perform other work is disabled. If the Commissioner finds that the claimant is able to do other work, the Commissioner must show that a significant number of jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant can do. The Commissioner may satisfy this burden through the testimony of a vocational expert (VE) or by reference to the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2. If the Commissioner demonstrates that a significant number of jobs exist in the national ...


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