United States District Court, D. Oregon
Marie Moles, Pro Se Plaintiff,
J. Williams, U.S. Attorney Janice E. Hébert, Asst.
U.S. Attorney Ryan Lu Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Office
of the General Counsel Social Security Administration
Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
Jelderks U.S. Magistrate Judge.
M. Moles (“Plaintiff”) brings this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1381a seeking
judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“the Commissioner”) denying her
application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under the Social Security Act (“the
Act”). For the reasons that follow, the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
filed her applications for DIB and SSI on December 13, 2011,
alleging disability beginning September 27, 2010. Tr. 23, 69,
70. After Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and on
reconsideration, a hearing was convened on November 14, 2013,
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) David
DeLaittre. Tr. 46-68. The ALJ issued a decision on April 23,
2014, finding Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 23-37. The decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner on September
25, 2015, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. Tr. 1-4. Plaintiff now appeals to this
court for review of the Commissioner's final decision.
April 20, 1963, Plaintiff was 47 years old on the alleged
onset date. Tr. 70. Plaintiff is a high school graduate and
attended two years of college. Tr. 260. She has past relevant
work as a sales associate, customer service clerk, flagger,
fast food cook, waitress, and small products assembler. Tr.
35. Plaintiff alleges disability due to fracture of the
tibia, right knee impairment, hip pain, osteoporosis,
myofascial pain syndrome, neuropathy, and ulnar nerve pain in
the right elbow. Tr. 259.
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. The
five step sequential inquiry is summarized below, as
described in Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094,
1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999).
One. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is
engaged in substantial gainful activity. A claimant who is
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), 406.920(b).
Two. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant
has one or more severe impairments. A claimant who does not
have any such impairment is not disabled. If the claimant has
one or more severe impairment(s), the Commissioner proceeds
to evaluate the claimant's case under step three. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c).
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 an impairment that meets a
listing is presumed disabled under the Act. If the
claimant's impairment does not meet or equal an
impairment listed in the listings, the Commissioner's
evaluation of the claimant's case proceeds under step
four. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
Four. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant
is able to perform 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 past
relevant work, the Commissioner's evaluation of
claimant's case proceeds under step five. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f).
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 claimant is
able to do other work, the Commissioner must show that a
significant number of jobs exist in the national economy that
claimant is able to perform. 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 economy that the claimant is able to
do, the claimant is not disabled. If the Commissioner does
not meet the burden, the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(g)(1), 416.920(g)(1).
steps one through four of the sequential inquiry, the burden
of proof is on the claimant. Tackett, 180 F.3d at
1098. At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
show the claimant can perform jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy. Id.
first step of the disability analysis, the ALJ found
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through
December 31, 2016, and had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the alleged onset date, September 17, 2010.
second step, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: meniscus tear, status post-arthroscopy;
degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine; right elbow
injury with resulting mild nerve damage; and myofascial pain
syndrome. Tr. 26. The ALJ additionally noted that
Plaintiff's medically determinable anxiety disorder and
depression did not cause more than a slight limitation on her
ability to perform basic work activities. Id.
third step, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled
a presumptively disabling impairment set out in the Listings,
20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1. Tr. 28.
proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ assessed
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”). He found Plaintiff retained the capacity
[P]erform less than the full range of light work . . . [she]
can lift and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten
pounds frequently. The claimant can stand and/or walk ...