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Imel v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

July 31, 2017

JOHANNA WAYNE IMEL, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          JOHN E. HAAPALA, JR. Attorney for Plaintiff

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney District of Oregon JANICE E. HEBERT Assistant United States Attorney SARAH L. MARTIN Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Malcolm F. Marsh United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Johanna Wayne Imel seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 -403. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff protectively filed her application for a period of disability and DIB benefits on April 9, 2012, alleging disability beginning March 15, 2008, due to Crohn's disease and colitis, cervical and lumbar spondylosis, right rotator cuff tear, and depression. Tr. Soc. Sec. Admin. R. ("Tr.") at 158. ECF No. 10. Plaintiffs claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). The ALJ held a hearing on August 14, 2014, at which Plaintiff appeared with her attorney and testified. A vocational expert, Frank Lucas, also appeared at the hearing and testified. On August 29, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review, and therefore, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of review.

         Plaintiff was born in 1959, and was 48 years old on the alleged onset of disability date and 54 on her date last insured. Plaintiff did not complete high school, but has received her GED. Tr. 40, 159. Plaintiff has past relevant work as a sales clerk, convenience store clerk, cashier, babysitter, and woodwork shop hand. Tr. 27, 40-43.

         THE ALJ'S DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential process for determining whether a person is disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §404.1520. Each step is potentially dispositive. The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. See Valentine v. Commissioner Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009); Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999). At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant can do other work which exists in the national economy. Hill v. Astrtie, 698 F.3d 1153, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012).

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements through December 31, 2013. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset of disability through her date last insured. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine; cervical radiculitis; sciatica; lumbago; right rotator cuff tear; fibromyalgia; and depression. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiffs impairments, or combination of impairments, did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment.

         The ALJ assessed Plaintiff with a residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with additional limitations:

lifting and/or carrying no more than 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; standing and/or walking about six hours of an eight-hour workday, and sitting about six hours of an eight-hour workday, and sitting about six hours of an eight-hour workday, with normal breaks. She must never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. [Plaintiff], a right hand dominant individual, is limited to no overhead reaching with the right upper extremity. She is limited to no more than frequent handling and fingering with the right upper extremity. [Plaintiff] must avoid even moderate exposure to operational control of moving machinery, hazardous machinery, and unprotected heights. She can understand and cany out simple instructions.

Tr. 23.

         At step four, the AL J found that Plaintiff is unable to perform her past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ found that considering Plaintiffs age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, including such representative occupations as: counter clerk, survey worker, marking clerk, or bakery helper. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a disability under the Social Security Act from March 15, 2008 through December 31, 2013.

         ISSUES ...


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