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Sturgill v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

September 21, 2017


          OPINION & ORDER


         Plaintiff David Douglas Sturgill seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.


         Plaintiff was born on May 2, 1966. Tr. 27. He has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English. Id. Plaintiff filed a Title II and a Title XVI application on September 18, 2012, alleging disability based on neck fusion; knee, back, and elbow surgery; knee problems; back problems; elbow problems; hip problems; arm, wrist and ankle injuries; and crushed right leg, with an onset date of July 31, 2011, later amended to March 2, 2012. Tr. 15, 17, 82. His application was denied initially and upon review. Tr. 15. At plaintiff's request, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on October 10, 2014. Id. On December 19, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 28. On March 17, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1. This appeal followed.


         A claimant is disabled if he or 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). “Social Security Regulations set out a five-step sequential process for determining whether an applicant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.” Keyser v. Comm'r, 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011).

The five-steps are: (1) Is the claimant presently working in a substantially gainful activity? (2) Is the claimant's impairment severe? (3) Does the impairment meet or equal one of a list of specific impairments described in the regulations? (4) Is the claimant able to perform any work that he or she has done in the past? and (5) Are there significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform?

Id. at 724-25; see also Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 954 (9th Cir. 2001).

         The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. Bustamante, 262 F.3d at 953. The Commissioner bears the burden of proof at step five. Id. at 953-54. At step five, the Commissioner must show that the claimant can perform other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, “taking into consideration the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education, and work experience.” Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1100 (9th Cir. 1999); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566; 416.966 (describing “work which exists in the national economy”). If the Commissioner fails to meet this burden, the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v); 416.920(a)(4)(v). If, however, the Commissioner proves that the claimant is able to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy, the claimant is not disabled. Bustamante, 262 F.3d at 953-54.


         The ALJ performed the sequential analysis. At step one, the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the amended alleged onset date, March 2, 2012. Tr. 17. At step two, the ALJ determined plaintiff had the following severe impairments: obesity, degenerative disc disease with post-laminectomy syndrome; degenerative joint disease with a history of recent anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructive surgery of the left knee; and depression. Id. At step three, the ALJ determined plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments. Tr. 19.

         The ALJ then assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) and determined plaintiff could perform sedentary work with the following additional limitations: no more than frequent stooping, kneeling, crawling, and crouching; occasional climbing of stairs and ramps; no climbing ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; no more than frequent overhead reaching; no more than occasional reaching with the left upper extremity; and plaintiff is limited to simple, repetitive, routine tasks. Tr. 21.

         At step four, the ALJ determined plaintiff could not perform past relevant work. Tr. 26. At step five, the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled and had the RFC to perform work as a small parts sorter, final inspector of small parts, and marker/price sticker. Tr. 27-28.

         STANDARD ...

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