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.

Quinton S. v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

October 23, 2018

QUINTON S., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying his application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act in part. The Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)). Because the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) improperly discounted Plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's decision and REMANDS this case for further administrative proceedings.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on June 19, 1960 and was fifty-two years old on November 27, 2012, the alleged disability onset date. Tr. 20, 49.[2] Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act (“SSA” or “Act”) through December 31, 2015. Tr. 23. Plaintiff has at least a high school education but is unable to perform any past relevant work. Tr. 31. Plaintiff claims he is disabled based on: lumbar degenerative disc disease; right shoulder osteoarthritis; left acromioclavicular joint arthritis; obesity; left knee degenerative joint disease; hypertension; gastroesophageal reflux disease; depression; anxiety; and a history of cocaine abuse. Tr. 23-4. Plaintiff's benefits application was denied initially on March 17, 2014, and upon reconsideration on November 24, 2014. Tr. 20. A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Jo Hoenninger on April 25, 2016. Tr. 42-80. ALJ Hoenninger issued a written decision on June 2, 2016, finding that, as of June 19, 2015, Plaintiff was disabled and entitled to benefits. Tr. 20-34. Plaintiff was therefore not disabled or entitled to benefits between November 27, 2012 and June 18, 2015. Tr. 20-30. The Appeals Council declined review, rendering ALJ Hoenninger's decision the Commissioner's final decision that Plaintiff now challenges in this Court. Tr. 1-6.

         The central issue here is whether the ALJ properly determined that Plaintiff was not disabled during the relevant time period: November 27, 2012 through June 18, 2015.

         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 the alleged disability onset date. Tr. 23.

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff “had the following severe impairments: lumbar degenerative disc disease; right shoulder osteoarthritis; left acromioclavicular joint arthritis; obesity; left knee degenerative joint disease; and hypertension.” Tr. 23-24. The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's gastroesophageal reflux disease, depression, anxiety, and history of cocaine abuse were not severe. Id.

         At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have any impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. Tr. 24-25. In particular, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's condition did not meet the requirements of Listing 1.02 for major joint dysfunction or Listing 1.04 for disorders of the spine. Id.

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work with the following exceptions:

The claimant could stand and/or walk for up to 2 hours in an 8-hour workday; the claimant could never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; the claimant could occasionally climb ramps and stairs; the claimant could occasionally stoop, kneel, and crouch; the claimant can rarely crawl (defined as 10% of the time or less); the claimant could occasionally perform bilateral overhead reaching; the claimant could tolerate frequent exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, wetness, humidity, noise, vibration, and workplace hazards such as unprotected heights and exposed moving machinery.

Tr. 25.

         At step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work, either as a warehouse worker, a forklift operator, or an event coordinator. Tr. 31-32.

         At step five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a vocational expert to find that prior to June 19, 2015, the date at which Plaintiff became categorized as an individual of advanced age, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the Plaintiff could have performed. Tr. 32-33. After June 19, 2015, there were no jobs ...


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.