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Sarsh P. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

October 12, 2018

Sarah P.[1], Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [2]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          John Elders, United States Magistrate Judge

         George J. Wall 1336 E. Burnside St., Suite 130 Portland, OR 97214 Attorney for Plaintiff Billy J. Williams, United States Attorney Renata A. Gowie, Assistant United States Attorney 1000 S.W. 3rd Avenue, Suite 600 Portland, OR 97204-2902 Sarah Moum Office of the General Counsel Social Security Administration 701 5th Avenue, Suite 2900 M/S 221A Seattle, WA 98104-7075 Attorneys for Defendant JELDERKS, Magistrate Judge:

         Plaintiff Sarah P. (Plaintiff) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under the Social Security Act (the Act). For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff protectively filed her application for SSI on February 4, 2014, alleging disability beginning April 1, 2004. Tr. 17. The Commissioner denied her application initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff appeared at hearings on June 26, 2015 and October 13, 2015, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Rudolph M. Murgo. Tr. 39. Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified; Gary Jesky, a vocational expert (VE), also testified. Tr. 39-70. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on October 30, 2015. Tr. 30. Plaintiff appealed, and the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1-3. Plaintiff now timely appeals the Commissioner's final decision.

         Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1972 and was 40 years old on the application filing date. Tr. 28. She took special education classes in high school and later achieved a GED; she also completed training as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Tr. 320. She has worked as a caregiver, cook, and receptionist. Tr. 320. Plaintiff alleges disability due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); clinical depression; anxiety; multiple personality disorder; degenerative joint disease; loss of feeling in both her hands; chronic pain; chronic sinusitis; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and attention deficit disorder (ADD). Tr. 319.

         Disability Analysis

         The ALJ engages in a five-step sequential inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. The five step sequential inquiry is summarized below, as described in Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999).

         Step One. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity. A claimant who is engaged in such activity is not disabled. If the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner proceeds to evaluate the claimant's case under Step Two. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b).

         Step Two. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant has one or more severe impairments. A claimant who does not have any such impairment is not disabled. If the claimant has one or more severe impairment(s), the Commissioner proceeds to evaluate the claimant's case under Step Three. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c).

         Step Three. Disability cannot be based solely on a severe impairment; therefore, the Commissioner next determines whether the claimant's impairment “meets or equals” one of the presumptively disabling impairments listed in the Social Security Administration (SSA) regulations, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. A claimant who has an impairment that meets a listing is presumed disabled under the Act. If the claimant's impairment does not meet or equal an impairment in the listings, the Commissioner's evaluation of the claimant's case proceeds under Step Four. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d).

         Step Four. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is able to perform work he or she has done in the past. A claimant who can perform past relevant work is not disabled. If the claimant demonstrates he or she cannot do past relevant work, the Commissioner's evaluation of claimant's case proceeds under Step Five. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e), (f).

         Step Five. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is able to do any other work. A claimant who cannot perform other work is disabled. If the Commissioner finds claimant is able to do other work, the Commissioner must show that a significant number of jobs exist in the national economy that claimant is able to do. The Commissioner may satisfy this burden through the testimony of a vocational expert (VE), or by reference to the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2. If the Commissioner demonstrates that a significant number of jobs exist in the national economy ...


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