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Hauth v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

October 11, 2017

MONIQUE HAUTH, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN V. ACOSTA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Monique Hauth ("plaintiff) seeks judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for Title XVI Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under the Social Security Act ("Act"). Because the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, his decision is AFFIRMED and this case DISMISSED.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff protectively filed her application for SSI on October 25, 2012, alleging disability asof January 20, 2012. (Tr. 145-51.)[1] The Commissioner denied her application initially and upon reconsideration, and she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. 88-91, 94-95, 100-02.) An administrative hearing was held on December 17, 2014. (Tr. 15-31.) After the hearing, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on January 14, 2015, finding plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 18-27.) The Appeals Council denied plaintiffs subsequent request for review, making the ALJ's decision final. (Tr. 1-4.)

         Factual Background

         Born on December 3, 1965, plaintiff was 46 years old on the alleged onset date of disability and 49 years old at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 143, 145.) She speaks English, completed the eleventh grade, and attended special education classes. (Tr. 162, 164.) Plaintiff alleges disability due to fibromyalgia, scoliosis, kidney infections, and bladder infections. (Tr. 64, 72, 163, )

         Standard of Review

         The court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir. 1989). Substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation and internal quotations omitted). The court must weigh "both the evidence that supports and detracts from the [Commissioner's] conclusions." Martinez v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 771, 772 (9th Cir. 1986). "Where the evidence as a whole can support either a grant or a denial, [the court] may not substitute [its] judgment for the ALJ's." Massachi v. Astrue, 486 F.3d 1149, 1152 (9th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).

         The initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish disability. Howard v. Heckler, 782 F.2d 1484, 1486 (9th Cir. 1986). To meet this burden, the claimant must demonstrate an "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected ... to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         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. § 416.920.[2] First, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140; 20 C.F.R, § 416.920(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled.

         At step two, the Commissioner evaluates whether the claimant has a "medically severe impairment or combination of impairments." Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c). If the claimant does not have a medically determinable, severe impairment, he is not disabled.

         At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's impairments, either 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 140-41; 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is presumptively disabled; if not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.

         At step four, the Commissioner resolves whether the claimant can still perform "past relevant work." 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(f). If the claimant can work, he is not disabled; if he 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 existing in significant numbers in the national or local economy. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(g). If the Commissioner meets this burden, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.966.

         The ALJ's Findings

         The ALJ performed the sequential analysis. At step one of the five-step process outlined above, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 25, 2012, the application date, (Tr, 20.) At step two, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: chronic cystitis, [3] status post transurethral fulguration, and chronic back pain. (Tr. 20-21.) At step three, the ALJ determined that plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a listed impairment. (Tr. 21.)

         The ALJ next assessed plaintiffs residual functional capacity ("RFC") and found that plaintiff has the RFC to

perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b), except: she is limited to standing and walking two to four hours total of eight; sitting without specific limitations; she may lift and carry up to twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; and ...

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