United States District Court, D. Oregon
MERRILL SCHNEIDER ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF
J. WILLIAMS UNITED STATES ATTORNEY DISTRICT OF OREGON RENATA
GOWIE ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
L. TOMA SPECIAL ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
OPINION AND ORDER
Malcolm F. Marsh United States District Judge
Shelly Harris 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 decision of the Commissioner is reversed and this
action is remanded for further proceedings.
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
protectively filed her DIB application on February 4, 2013,
alleging disability beginning April 10, 2012, due to
dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,
depression, anxiety, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Tr.
Soc. Sec. Admin. R. ("Tr.") 269, ECF No. 13.
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 April 24, 2015, at which Plaintiff appeared
with her attorney and testified. A vocational expert, Nancy
E. Bloom, also appeared at the hearing and testified. On June
8, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff s request for review, and therefore,
the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner for purposes of review.
was bom in 1964, was 48 years old on the alleged onset of
disability, and was 51 years old on the date of the ALJ's
decision. Tr. 39. Plaintiff graduated from high school, has
past relevant work as a teaching assistant, and at the time
of the hearing, was employed part-time as an in-home
caregiver. Tr. 39, 78-79, 117, 270, 313.
ALJ'S DISABILITY ANALYSIS
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.
Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir.
2012); Valentine v. Commissioner Soc. Sec. Admin.,
574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009). 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.
Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1161 (9th Cir. 2012).
meets insured status requirements for a DIB application
through June 30, 2016. At step one, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since her alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ found
Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"), major
depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. At
step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiffs impairments do not
meet or medically equal a listed impairment.
assessed Plaintiff with a residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels, with the following nonexertional
she is limited to work consistent with SVP1, she is limited
to low-stress work, which is defined as work requiring few
decisions and few changes; no contact with the public; and
only occasional contact with co-workers and supervisors.
Tr, 30. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable
to perform her past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ
found that jobs exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that plaintiff can perform, such as representative
occupations as: machine egg washer, bottling line attendant,
and belt picker. Tr. 39-40. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff has not been under a disability under the
Social Security Act at any time from April 10, 2012 through
the date of the decision.
appeal to this Court, Plaintiff contends the following errors
were committed: (1) the ALJ failed to incorporate the
findings of Dr. Dean's vocational rehabilitation
examination into the RFC determination; and (2) the ALJ
improperly evaluated treating opinions of Carrie Mostul,
PMHNP, Rebecca Hill, PMHNP, and Margaret Evans, LPC. The
Commissioner contends that the ALJ's decision is
supported by substantial evidence and free of legal error.
The Commissioner also argues that even if the ALJ erred,
Plaintiff has not demonstrated harmful error and the
ALJ's decision should be affirmed.