Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Davis v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 11, 2017

JOY DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARK D. CLARKE, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Joy Davis ("Plaintiff), seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on November 22, 1968, has at least a high school education, and is able to communicate in English. Tr. 26. She worked as a medical assistant. Id. Plaintiff filed her initial claim for disability on October 26, 2011, alleging disability due to chronic back pain, arthritis, and neuropathy beginning on June 13, 2011. Tr. 65. Plaintiff was insured under Title II of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016. Tr. 17.

         Plaintiffs claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 15. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Plaintiff appeared at a video hearing and testified before ALJ Marilyn S. Mauer on May 7, 2014. Id. On July 25, 2014, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. Tr. 28. On October 26, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs subsequent request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Tr. 1. This appeal followed.

         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, 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011). 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)(h); 416.920(a)(4)(h). An impairment is "severe" if it significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c); 416.920(c). 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)(h); 416.920(a)(4)(h). 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. §§ 404.152Q(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. The Commissioner bears the burden of proof at step five. Id. at 953-54. 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." Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1100 (9th Cir. 1999); 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.

         THE ALJ'S FINDINGS

         The ALJ performed the sequential analysis. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not performed substantial gainful activity since the original alleged onset date of June 13, 2011. Tr. 17. At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: chronic pain status post cervical fusion times two and lumbar micorodisectomy; obesity; cervical radicular pain intp the arms, right greater than left; and osteoarthritis of the right hip. Id. At step three, the ALJ found Plaintiffs impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment. Tr. 19.

         The ALJ then assessed Plaintiffs RFC and determined that Plaintiff could perform light exertion work with lifting and carrying of twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently. Tr. 20. Plaintiff can stand, walk, and sit for six hours of an eight-hour workday for a combined total of eight hours of activity, but will require the option to change from seated to standing position every twenty minutes while still performing essential tasks. Id. Plaintiff can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Id. She can never be exposed to hazards such as unprotected heights and large moving equipment. Id. She can occasionally climb ramps or stairs. Id. She can occasionally stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl. Id. She can never reach overhead. Id. She can perform frequent handling, fingering, and feeling with the right upper extremity. Id. Plaintiff should avoid concentrated exposure to cold temperatures. Id. Due to the impact of her pain and pain medications, Plaintiff can understand, remember, and carry out only simple instructions. Id.

         At step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform her past relevant work. Tr. 26. At step five, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform work as a counter clerk, information travel clerk, and protective clothing issuer. Tr. 27. Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 28.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if the decision is based on proper legal standards and the legal findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r, 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). Substantial evidence "means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and internal quotations omitted). In reviewing the Commissioner's alleged errors, this court must weigh "both the evidence that supports and detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusions." Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). Variable interpretations of the evidence are insignificant if the Commissioner's interpretation is rational. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679 (9th Cir. 2005).

         When the evidence before the ALJ is subject to more than one rational interpretation, we must defer to the ALJ's conclusion. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1198 (citing Andrews v. Shalala,53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995)). A reviewing court, however, cannot affirm the Commissioner's decision on a ground that the agency did not invoke in making its decision. Stout v. Comm 'r,454 F.3d 1050, 1054 (9th Cir. 2006). Finally, a court may not reverse an ALJ's decision on account of an error that is harmless. Id. at 1055-56. "[T]he burden of showing that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.