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Medgin v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 20, 2018

GRETCHEN MARIE MEDGIN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          George J. Wall Attorney for Plaintiff.

          Billy J. Williams United States Attorney Reneta Gowie Assistant United States Attorney District of Oregon Jeffrey E. Staples Special Assistant United States Attorney Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Gretchen Marie Medgin brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI 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)). Because the Commissioner's decision was free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record, the Court AFFIRMS the decision and DISMISSES this case.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff has a bachelor's degree in nursing and was thirty-four years old on the alleged disability onset date of November 27, 2012. Tr. 26-27.[1] Plaintiff does not have past relevant work experience. Tr. 34. Plaintiff's application was denied initially on March 5, 2013, and upon reconsideration on August 28, 2013. Tr. 15. Two hearings were held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Paul G. Robeck on January 23, 2015, and July 24, 2015. Tr. 15, 43, 91. ALJ Robeck issued a decision on September 10, 2015, in which he found Plaintiff not to be disabled. Tr. 15-36. Plaintiff sought review by the Appeals Council, but was denied, making ALJ Robeck's decision the final decision that Plaintiff now challenges in this Court.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         A claimant is disabled if 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). 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.

         At the 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), 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 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), 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, 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 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. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.

         If the ALJ determines that the claimant is disabled and there is medical evidence of a substance use disorder, the ALJ must determine if the substance use disorder is a contributing factor material to the determination of disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1535(a), 416.935(a). The ALJ must determine, to what extent, the claimant's limitations would remain if the claimant stopped the substance use. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1535(b)(1), 916.935(b)(1). If the remaining limitations would not be disabling, the substance use disorder is a contributing factor material to the determination of disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 505.1535(b)(2), 416.935(b)(2). If so, the claimant is not disabled.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged ...


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