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Kreindel v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 12, 2018

JANA KREINDEL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          Bruce W. Brewer LAW OFFICES OF BRUCE W. BREWER, PC Attorney for Plaintiff

          Billy J. Williams UNITED STATES ATTORNEY District of Oregon Renata Gowie ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY Alexis L. Toma SPECIAL ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY Office of the General Counsel Social Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jana Kreindel brings this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision to deny disability insurance benefits (DIB). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for DIB on August 24, 2009, alleging an onset date of January 1, 2008. Tr. 131-132. Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 67, 69-73 (Initial); Tr. 68, 75-78 (Reconsideration). On March 6, 2012, Plaintiff appeared with counsel for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 32-66. At the hearing, Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date to April 1, 2011. Tr. 36. On March 22, 2012, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 11-26. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1-6.

         On September 13, 2013, Plaintiff appealed the March 2012 ALJ decision to the District Court. On September 30, 2014, upon the stipulation of the parties, the District Court remanded the case for further administrative proceedings. Tr. 614-29.

         On July 20, 2015, Plaintiff appeared with counsel for a new hearing. Tr. 578-608. At this second hearing, Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date again, to August 1, 2009. Tr. 590. On September 25, 2015, the new ALJ also found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 549-577. The Appeals Council again denied review. Tr. 521-24.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges disability based on having endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, pan-hypopituitarism, musculoskeletal and abdominal pain, and fibromyalgia. Tr. 153, 586-87, 593, 596, 600-03. At the time of the July 2015 hearing, she was twenty-eight years old and not working. Tr. 584, 588. She holds a bachelor's degree and has past relevant work experience as a reservation clerk. Tr. 594, 605-06.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY EVALUATION

         A claimant is disabled if 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), 1382c(3)(a).

         Disability claims are evaluated according to a five-step procedure. See Valentine v. Comm'r, 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009) (in social security cases, agency uses five-step procedure to determine disability). The claimant bears the ultimate burden of proving disability. Id.

         At step one, 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), 416.920(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), 416.920(c). If not, the claimant is not disabled.

         At step three, the Commissioner determines whether plaintiff's impairments, singly or in combination, meet or equal “one of a number of listed impairments that the [Commissioner] acknowledges is so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.

         At step 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), 416.920(e). If the claimant can perform past relevant work, 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), 416.920(e) & (f). If the Commissioner meets his 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. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date through her date of last insured. Tr. 555. At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe impairments of headache disorder, pan-hypopituitarism, endometriosis, and obesity. Id. At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal, singly or in combination, a listed impairment. Tr. 557.

         At step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the following RFC:

[T]hrough the date last insured, the claimant had the [RFC] to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) in which she stands, walks, or sits for no more than six hours total each in an eight hour day, and lifts no more than 10 pounds occasionally, except that she can no more than frequently balance, kneel, climb or crawl; occasionally crouch, stoop, and reach overhead; due to her history of recurring headaches, she would function best in a low-stress work environment, and so would be limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks.

Tr. 558. With this RFC, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is unable to perform any of her past ...


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