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Murphy v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

August 3, 2017

SHARON MURPHY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Linda S. Ziskin Ziskin Attorney for Plaintiff

          Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney Janice Hebert, Asst. U.S. Attorney, Sarah Elizabeth Moum Special Asst. U.S. Attorney Office of the General Counsel Attorneys for Defendants

          OPINION AND ORDER

          John Jelderks U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Sharon Murphy brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under the Social Security Act (the Act).

         For the reasons set out below, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and this action is remanded for further proceedings.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for a period of disability and disability benefits on March 8, 2012, alleging she had been disabled since December 22, 2009.

         After her claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff timely requested an administrative hearing.

         On November 19, 2013, a video hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Janice Shave. Plaintiff and Jacklyn A. Benson-Dehaan, a vocational expert (VE), testified at the hearing. Plaintiff was represented by counsel. At the hearing Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date to June 30, 2010, which corresponds to her sobriety date. Tr. 34, 75.

         In a decision dated December 4, 2013, ALJ Shave found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.

         On March 6, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. In the present action, Plaintiff challenges that decision.

         Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1959 and was 54 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision.

         Plaintiff graduated from high school and completed three years of college. Tr. 214. She has past relevant work as a customer service representative. Tr. 41, 76.

         Disability Analysis

          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. Below is a summary of the five steps, which also are described in Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999).

         Step One. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). A claimant 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).

         Step Two. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant has one or more severe impairments. A claimant who does not have such an impairment is not disabled. If the claimant has a severe impairment, the Commissioner proceeds to evaluate the claimant's case under Step Three. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).

         Step 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 such an impairment is disabled. If the claimant's impairment does not meet or equal an impairment listed in the ...


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