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Herman v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 24, 2017

TONYA A. HERMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Richard F. McGinty McGinty & Belcher, Attorneys Attorney for Plaintiff

          Billy J. Williams United States Attorney

          Janice E. Hebert Assistant United States Attorney

          Thomas M. Elsberry Social Security Administration, Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Tonya Herman brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act and for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act. The Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)). The Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born in 1981 and was twenty-seven years old on the alleged disability onset date. Tr. 25, 40.[1] She completed the eighth grade and has not earned a GED. Tr. 42. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a cashier and window assembler. Tr. 25. She applied for DIB and SSI benefits on April 12, 2012. Tr. 206, 210. The Commissioner initially denied her application and denied it again on reconsideration. Tr. 141, 145-46. An administrative hearing was held on April 29, 2014, before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Jo Hoenninger. Tr. 34. On May 22, 2014, ALJ Hoenninger issued a written opinion denying Plaintiff's application. Tr. 12-26. Plaintiff's request for review of the decision was denied by the Appeals Counsel on October 16, 2015, making the ALJ's opinion the Commissioner's final decision that Plaintiff now challenges in this Court. Tr. 1-3.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         A claimant is disabled if 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). Disability claims are evaluated according to a five-step procedure. Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009). The claimant bears the ultimate burden of proving disability. Id.

         At 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). At 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.

         At step three, the Commissioner determines whether claimant'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.

         At 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. At step five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can perform other work. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the Commissioner meets its burden and proves that the claimant is able to perform other work which exists in the national economy, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through the relevant time period and had not engaged in substantial ...


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