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Raymond v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 26, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Merrill Schneider Attorney for Plaintiff

          Billy J. Williams Janice E. Hebert Cortney Garcia Attorneys for Defendant

          Cortney Garcia Social Security Administration 701 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2900 M/S 221A Seattle, WA 98103 Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, Robert Corwin Raymond, brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying his application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI 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 parties dispute whether Plaintiff is incapable of using a walking assistance device, such as a cane, in his non-dominant left hand, purportedly rendering him disabled. Because the Commissioner's disability decision failed to determine whether Plaintiff had the disputed limitation, the Court remands this case for further administrative proceedings consistent with this opinion.


         Plaintiff was born on April 28, 1964, and was forty-eight years old when the Commissioner's decision was issued. Tr. 30.[1] Plaintiff has a seventh-grade education and has not earned a GED. Tr. 84-85. He has past relevant work experience as a gas station attendant. Tr. 106-07. On May 17, 2012, Plaintiff filed his application for SSI, alleging that his disability onset date was April 1, 2001. Tr. 132. His claim as initially denied on September 13, 2012, and again upon reconsideration on February 11, 2013. Tr. 132, 159. Plaintiff's first administrative hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Andrew Grace on April 18, 2014. Tr. 77. After the conclusion the first hearing, ALJ Grace ordered that an additional consultative medical exam of Plaintiff be taken and a subsequent hearing be held. Tr. 20. Plaintiff's second hearing was held on January 9, 2015. Tr. 38. After the second hearing, the ALJ requested and obtained additional evidence based on Plaintiff's testimony. Tr. 20. On June 23, 2015, the ALJ issued a written opinion denying Plaintiff's application. Tr. 31. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's opinion the Commissioner's final decision that Plaintiff now challenges in this Court. Tr. 5.


         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.


         At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity ...

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