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Neiss v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 2, 2018

ANNA CAROLINE NEISS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Merrill Schneider Schneider Kerr & Robichaux P.O. Attorney for Plaintiff.

          Billy J. Williams United States Attorney Reneta Gowie Assistant United States Attorney U.S. Attorney's Office District of Oregon, Jordan D. Goddard Special Assistant United States Attorney Social Security Administration, Attorneys for Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Anna Neiss 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 Court concludes that Plaintiff is disabled under Listing 12.05C, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and this case is remanded for an immediate award of benefits.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on November 10, 1963, and was 49 years old on the date that her application was filed. Tr. 31.[1] Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a cashier, self-service gas station attendant, and fast food worker. Tr. 30. Plaintiff's application was denied initially on March 20, 2013, and upon reconsideration on October 28, 2013. Tr. 93-108. A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Moira Ausems in Kennewick, Washington on April 14, 2015. Tr. 43-74. ALJ Ausems issued a decision on September 22, 2015, in which she found Plaintiff not to be disabled. Tr. 22-32. Plaintiff sought review by the Appeals Council, but was denied, making ALJ Ausems'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.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 7, 2012, the application date. Tr. 24 At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “right knee medial meniscal tear and chondromalacia; coronary artery disease; and borderline intellectual functioning.” Tr. 24 At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. Tr. 24. Particularly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's mental impairments did not meet the requirements of Listing 12.05. Tr. 24-27. ...


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