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Savolt v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 16, 2018

KASI LYNN SAVOLT, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Merrill Schneider Schneider Kerr & Robichaux Attorney for Plaintiff

          Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney Renata A. Gowie, Assistant United States Attorney

          Alexis L. Toma Special Assistant United States Attorney Attorneys for Defendant

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          JELDERKS, Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Kasi Lynn Savolt (Plaintiff) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under the Social Security Act (the Act). For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's decision should be AFFIRMED.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff protectively filed her application for DIB on September 16, 2013, alleging disability beginning September 13, 2013. Tr. 19. The Commissioner denied her application initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff appeared at a hearing on July 27, 2016, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) B. Hobbs. Tr. 42. Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified; Nancy Bloom, a vocational expert (VE), also testified. Tr. 42-70. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on August 2, 2016. Tr. 29. Plaintiff appealed, and the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-3. Plaintiff now timely appeals the Commissioner's final decision.

         Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1963 and was 50 years old on the date she alleges she became disabled. Tr. 21, 203. She completed high school and became a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in 1983. Tr. 176. She has worked as a CNA and group home manager. Tr. 177.

         Disability Analysis

         The ALJ 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).

         Step 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).

         Step 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).

         Step 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 in the listings, the Commissioner's evaluation of the claimant's case proceeds under Step Four. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d).

         Step 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. § 404.1520(e).

         Step 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. § 404.1520(f)(1).

         At 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.

         ALJ's ...


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