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Tran v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 16, 2018

LINH THI MINH TRAN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          Linh Thi Minh Pro Se Plaintiff

          Renata Gowie Assistant United States Attorney OR Brett Edward Eckelberg Social Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro Se Plaintiff Linh Thi Minh Tran brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act and for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)). The Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI on February 7, 2013, alleging disability as of November 1, 2011. Tr. 110.[1] Her applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 136-43, 153-58. On February 17, 2016, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel and an interpreter, for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).[2] Tr. 55. On March 8, 2016, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 36-37. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 7.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initially alleged disability based on vision problems and back pain. Tr. 297. She was 46 at the time of the administrative hearing. Tr. 62. Plaintiff has at least a high school education and past relevant work experience as a library page. Tr. 35.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY ANALYSIS

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

         In 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). In step two, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a “medically severe impairment or combination of impairments.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137 at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If not, the claimant is not disabled.

         In step three, the Commissioner determines whether the impairment meets or equals “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.

         In step four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant, despite any impairment(s), has the residual functional capacity 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. In 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 after her alleged onset date of November 1, 2011. Tr. 27. Next, at steps two and three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairment: “visual disorder of the left eye.” Tr. 27. However, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the severity of a listed impairment. Tr. 29. At step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the following residual functional capacity:

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: frequently reach, handle, finger, and feel; no exposure to heights, hazards, and heavy equipment; no exposure to chemicals; and no exposure to temperature extremes (hot or cold). The claimant is limited to vision with the right eye only. The claimant can read with the right eye only. The claimant should avoid tasks involving depth perception.

Tr. 29. With these limitations, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a library page. Tr. 35. At step five the ALJ also found that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, such as “Busboy, ” “Laundry Sorter, ” and “Food Tray ...


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