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Coats v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

January 31, 2018

BONNIE S. COATS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          KATHERINE L. EITENMILLER Of Attorney for Plaintiff.

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney RENATA GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney District of Oregon SARAH MOUM Special Assistant United States Attorney Office of the General Counsel Of Attorneys for Defendant.


          Michael McShane United States District Judge.

         Bonnie Sue Coats (“Coats”) seeks judicial review of the final decision by the Social Security Commissioner (“Commissioner”) denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“SSA”). This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Because the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the decision is AFFIRMED.

         The Application

         Born in 1961, Coats was 46 years old on the disability onset date. Tr. 190. She has a GED. Tr. 195. She previously worked at a number of jobs, including letter carrier and retail clerk. Id.

         Coats protectively filed for SSI on June 21, 2012, alleging disability as of June 15, 2007, due to back problems, IBS, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and right wrist and shoulder problems. Tr. 29, 194. Her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 29. A hearing was held on November 17, 2014 before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Coats was represented by counsel and testified, as did a vocational expert (“VE”). Tr. 48-90. On January 30, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Coats not disabled. Tr. 26-42. Coats timely requested review of the ALJ's decision and, after the Appeals Council denied her request for review, filed a complaint in this Court. Tr. 8-10.

         The Sequential Analysis

         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 Soc. Sec. Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011);

         The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. Bustamante v. Massanri, 262 F.3d 949, 953 (9th Cir. 2001). The Commissioner bears the burden of proof at step five. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1100 (9th Cir. 2001). 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.” Id. If the Commissioner fails to meet this burden, the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 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; Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1099.

         The ALJ's Findings

         At step one of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Coats had not engaged in substantial gainful activity after the alleged onset date, June 15, 2007. Tr. 31.

         At step two, the ALJ determined Coats had the following severe impairments: irritable bowel syndrome; multi-level lumbar degenerative disc disease; right shoulder rotator cuff tear; obesity; carpal tunnel syndrome/right wrist scapholunate ligament disruption; bipolar I disorder; anxiety disorder, not otherwise specified; alcohol dependence; and opiate dependence. Id.

         At step three, the ALJ found that Coats' impairments, by itself or in combination, did not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment. Tr. 32-35. Because Coats did not establish disability at step three, the ALJ continued to evaluate how Coats' impairments affected her ability to work during the relevant period. The ALJ found Coats had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform less than the full range of light work, and that Coats could:

[o]ccasionally lift and/or carry twenty pounds and frequently ten pounds. The claimant can sit, stand and/or walk six hours out of an eight-hour workday with normal breaks. A bathroom must be on premises. The claimant must be allowed to alternate sitting or standing positions as needed throughout the day while remaining on task. The claimant is limited to no more than frequent climbing of ramps or stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, ...

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