United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
L. Bordelon Evergreen Disability Law Attorneys for Plaintiff
Williams United States Attorney Renata Gowie Assistant United
Elizabeth Moum Special Assistant United States Attorney
Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION & ORDER
A. HERNÁNDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Chad Michael Reese brings this action for judicial review of
the Commissioner's final decision denying his application
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under
Title II of the Social Security Act. The Court has
jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by
42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)). The issues before the Court are
whether the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
erred by: (1) improperly discrediting Plaintiff's
subjective symptom testimony, and (2) improperly discrediting
the opinions of Plaintiff's therapists, Nicole Fricano,
MA, QMHP; and Brittany Neighbours, MA, QMHP. I affirm the
applied for DIB on March 29, 2013, alleging a disability
onset date of January 18, 2012. Tr. 9, 28, 132.
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Tr. 9, 77-80, 83-85. Plaintiff's
administrative hearing was held on April 1, 2015, before ALJ
Rudolph Murgo. Tr. 26. The ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim
in a written decision issued on October 1, 2015. Tr. 9-21.
The Appeals Council denied review, rendering the ALJ's
decision final. Tr. 1-3.
claimant is disabled if he 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). Disability claims are evaluated according to a
five-step procedure. Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009). The claimant
bears the ultimate burden of proving disability. Id.
first step, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” If so,
the claimant is not disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). At step
two, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a
“medically severe impairment or combination of
impairments.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). If not, the claimant is not
three, the Commissioner determines whether claimant's
impairments, 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 141; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If so, the
claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the
Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482
U.S. at 141.
four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant,
despite any impairment(s), has the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform “past relevant
work.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). If the claimant
can, the claimant is not disabled. If the claimant 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. Yuckert,
482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e) & (f).
If the Commissioner meets its burden and proves that the
claimant is able to perform other work which exists in the
national economy, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since January 18, 2012. Tr. 11.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: affective disorder, anxiety disorder, and
schizophrenia. Tr. 11-13.
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff's impairments or
combination of impairments did not meet or equal the severity
of one of the listed impairments. Tr. 13-14.
step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the RFC to
perform work at all exertional levels with the following
non-exertional limitations: “[Plaintiff] is limited to
low stress work typical of jobs with specific vocational and
preparation (SVP) ratings of 1 or 2. He can also have no
public contact.” Tr. 14-20.
four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff is capable of performing
his past relevant work as a warehouse clean-up worker. Tr.
20-21. Accordingly, the ...