United States District Court, D. Oregon
R. Cohen Attorney for Plaintiff
J. Williams, U.S. Attorney Renata Gowie, Asst. U.S. Attorney
Martin Special Asst. U.S. Attorney Office of the General
Counsel Social Security Administration Attorneys for
OPINION AND ORDER
JELDERKS U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Raymond Steele 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 his application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (DIB) under the Social Security Act (the
Act). For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's
decision is reversed and this case is remanded for further
filed his application for a period of disability and DIB on
January 23, 2013, alleging disability as of November 15,
2012. The Commissioner denied his application initially and
upon reconsideration, and Plaintiff timely requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). An
administrative hearing was held on November 25, 2014, before
ALJ Vadim Mozyrsky. In a decision dated March 26, 2015, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning
of the Act. The ALJ's decision became the final decision
of the Commissioner on July 14, 2016, when the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Plaintiff
now appeals to this Court for review of the
Commissioner's final decision.
was born in 1954 and was 60 years old at the time of the
ALJ's decision. He completed two years of college and
attended vocational rehabilitation training. He is a military
veteran and has past relevant work as a structural steel
inspector and quality control technician.
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. The five step sequential inquiry
is summarized below, as described in Tackett v.
Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999).
One. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is
engaged in substantial gainful activity. A claimant who is
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).
Two. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant
has one or more severe impairments. A claimant who does not
have any such impairment is not disabled. If the claimant has
one or more severe impairment(s), the Commissioner proceeds
to evaluate the claimant's case under Step Three. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).
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 an impairment that meets a
listing is presumed disabled under the Act. If the
claimant's impairment does not meet or equal an
impairment listed in the listings, the Commissioner's
evaluation of the claimant's case proceeds under Step
Four. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d).
Four. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant
is able to perform work he or she has done in the past. A
claimant who can perform past relevant work is not disabled.
If the claimant demonstrates he or she cannot do past
relevant work, the Commissioner's evaluation of
claimant's case proceeds under Step Five. 20 C.F.R.
Five. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant
is able to do any other work. A claimant who cannot perform
other work is disabled. If the Commissioner finds claimant is
able to do other work, the Commissioner must show that a
significant number of jobs exist in the national economy that
claimant is able to do. The Commissioner may satisfy this
burden through the testimony of a vocational expert (VE), or
by reference to the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2. If the Commissioner
demonstrates that a significant number of jobs exist in the
national economy that the claimant is able to do, the
claimant is not disabled. If the Commissioner does not meet
the burden, the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
Steps One through Four of the sequential inquiry, the burden
of proof is on the claimant. Tackett, 180 F.3d at
1098. At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
show the claimant can perform jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy. Id.
initial matter, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured
status requirements through December 31, 2017.
first step of his disability analysis, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since November 15, 2012, the alleged onset date.
second step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: hearing loss, tinnitus, asthma,
osteoarthritis, and degenerative disc disease.
third step, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled
a presumptively disabling impairment set out in the Listing
of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526.
proceeding to the fourth step, the ALJ assessed
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC). He found
Plaintiff retained the functional capacity to:
perform medium work . . . except the claimant can
occasionally reach overhead bilaterally and frequently handle
bilaterally. He can occasionally climb ladders and scaffolds,
kneel, crouch and crawl. He can frequently balance and stoop.
He should have no more than concentrated exposure to airborne
irritants, such as gases, fumes and odors. The claimant is
limited to work environments with a moderate noise level.
In making his determination, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff's statements concerning the intensity,
persistence and limiting effects of his symptoms were not
fourth step of the disability analysis, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was unable to perform ...