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Kate B. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

July 6, 2018

KATE B.,[1] Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Sara L. Gabin Sara L. Gabin, P.C., Attorney at Law Attorney for Plaintiff.

          Billy J. Williams United States Attorney Renata Gowie Assistant United States Attorney Catherine Escobar Special Assistant United States Attorney Attorneys for Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A HERNÁNDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Kate B. brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II 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 is free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record, it is AFFIRMED and this case is DISMISSED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on March 2, 1975, and was thirty-seven years old on the alleged disability onset date, October 19, 2012. Tr. 32.[2] She earned a GED and has past relevant work experience as a mail carrier. Tr. 32, 42. Plaintiff's benefits application was denied initially on January 23, 2013, and upon reconsideration on July 19, 2013. Tr. 85-86, 98-99. A hearing was held before ALJ Kelly Wilson on April 23, 2015. Tr. 40. ALJ Wilson issued a written decision on May 6, 2015, finding Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 19-33. The Appeals Council declined review, rendering ALJ Wilson's decision the Commissioner's final decision that Plaintiff now challenges in this Court. Tr. 1-6.

         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 determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 18, 2012, the alleged disability onset date. Tr. 21.

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: “degenerative disc disease, a leg length discrepancy, and spina bifida occulta.” Tr. 21.

         At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. Tr. 23.

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform less than a full range of light work with the following limitations:

The claimant can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently in an eight-hour workday. She can stand and/or walk for six hours and sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday. She can frequently stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She must avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations.

Tr. 23.

         At step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is unable to perform ...


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