Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Smith v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

May 16, 2018

BETTY J. SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          Tim D. Wilborn Wilborn Law Office, P.C. Attorney for Plaintiff

          Billy Williams United States Attorney Renata Gowie Renata Gowie Assistant United States Attorney

          Martha A. Boden Special Assistant United States Attorney

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Betty J. Smith 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)). The issues before the Court are whether the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred by: (1) discounting Plaintiff's symptom testimony; (2) discounting the opinion of Nancy H. Maloney, M.D., an examining physician; and (3) discounting the opinion of Plaintiff's physical therapist, Kenneth Smith, LPT. As a result of these errors, Plaintiff contends the ALJ's assessment of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) was insufficient and, therefore, the vocational hypothetical presented to the vocational expert at the hearing was incomplete. Because the ALJ improperly discredited testimony, the Court reverses the Commissioner's final decision and remands this case for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion and Order.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for SSI on June 6, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of May 9, 2011. Tr. 263, 298.[1] Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff's first administrative hearing was held on February 18, 2014, before Administrative Law Judge Tom L. Morris. Tr. 71. ALJ Morris denied Plaintiff's claim in a written decision issued on May 6, 2014. Tr. 135-50. The Appeals Council reversed ALJ Morris's decision and remanded back to the ALJ to conduct another hearing and issue a new decision. Tr. 151-55.

         On remand from the Appeals Council ALJ Katherine Weatherly conducted a hearing on April 22, 2016, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel. Tr. 43-70. On May 19, 2016, ALJ Weatherly denied Plaintiff's claim in a written decision. Tr. 19-30. On February 17, 2017, the Appeals Council declined review, rendering ALJ Weatherly's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-3.

         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. § 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. § 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. § 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 to perform “past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R. § 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. § 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. § 416.966.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         At step one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity between June 6, 2011, and January 1, 2014, the alleged period of disability. Tr. 22.

         At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: a fractured right humerus, status-post right reverse shoulder arthroplasty, and osteoperosis. Tr. 22- 23.

         At step three, the ALJ found Plaintiff's impairments or combination of impairments did not meet or equal the severity of one of the listed impairments. Tr. 23.

         Before step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the RFC to perform a reduced range of light work with the following limitations:

She could lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. She could stand and/or walk with normal breaks for a total of about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and she could sit with normal breaks for a total of about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. She could never overhead reach with the right arm and could perform no more than frequent reaching at waist level with her right arm. She had no limitation of the left upper extremity. She could occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and she could ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.