United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division
TAMARA S. SEVERSON, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
COON, SCOTT SELL, BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney
ATA GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney
KATHRYN A. MILLER Special Assistant United States Attorney
Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION AND ORDER
CLARKE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Tamara S. Severson ("Severson") 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). Based on a careful review of the record, the
Commissioner's decision is REVERSED and the case REMANDED
for further proceedings.
filed for SSI on November, 29, 2012, alleging disability as
of December 23. 2010. Tr. 18. Her application was denied
initially and upon reconsideration, and a hearing was held on
January 14, 2015, before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"); Severson was represented by counsel and
testified, as did a vocational expert ("VE"). Tr.
38-72. On April 10. 2015, ALJ Vadim Mozyrsky issued a
decision finding Severson not disabled. Tr. 18-30. Severson
requested timely review of the ALJ's decision and, after
the Appeals Council denied her request for review, filed a
complaint in this Court. Tr. 1-3.
1958, Severson was 52 years old on the disability onset date.
Tr. 200. She graduated high school and completed office
specialist training classes at the community college level.
Tr. 169. She previously worked as a courier and performed
general office work for a small business. Tr. 169. She
alleges disability due to injuries to her spine, neck, and
back, as well as "severe nerve pain." Tr. 168.
Severson's disability onset date, December 23, 2010, a
vehicle backed into her parked car while she sat in the
driver's seat. Tr. 254. Severson reported moderate and
constant neck pain as a result of the accident. Tr. 254.
Severson took time off her job as a courier, and upon her
return, found she was unable to complete her normal duties
due to pain and stress. Tr. 42.
performed on January 12, 2011, and June 24, 2011, revealed
"severe right neural foraminal narrowing, " as well
as "moderate left neural foraminal narrowing''
at the C5-6 vertebra and moderate degenerative changes at the
C5-6 vertebra. Tr. 454. On October 7, 2011, Dr. Darrell
Brett, M.D.. performed an "anterior cervical discectomy.
partial corpectomy. foraminotomy, and neural
decompression" and a C5-6 "interbody" fusion
on Severson's neck. Tr. 459.
returned to Dr. Brett for a one-year checkup, where she
complained of "residual neck and interscapular pain with
over-exertion or sustained or awkward neck positions."
Tr. 288. Dr. Brett noted Severson's neck movement was
reduced, but she had "no objective neurologic deficit,
with preserved strength [and] sensation." Id.
He noted that Tramadol should be used sparingly, and
conservative measures like "ice, deep heat, ultrasound,
massage, and gentle mobilization" would help curtail her
symptoms, which were expected to arise chronically with
over-exertion. Id. Functionally, Dr. Brett opined
Severson could work in a "light-duty capacity. She
should not lift or carry more than 24 [pounds], perform any
repetitive or heavy exertion with the upper extremities, or
maintain any awkward or stationary neck positions that
aggravate her pain. These will be permanent occupational and
recreational restrictions." Id. The ALJ gave
great weight to Dr. Brett's assessment.
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, 648 F.3d
721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011). Each step is ...