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Tammy S. v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

November 10, 2018

TAMMY S., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          Sherwood J. Reese Drew L. Johnson, P.C. Attorney for Plaintiff

          Renata Gowie Assistant United States Attorney, Sarah Moum Social Security Administration Office of the General Counsel Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Tammy S. brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 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 reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI on September 4, 2013, alleging disability as of January 1, 2008. Tr. 108.[2] Plaintiff's date last insured (“DLI”) is December 31, 2009. Tr. 18. Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 142-50, 152-57. On July 15, 2016, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 46. On October 18, 2016, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 31. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initially alleged disability based on fibromyalgia, panic disorder, and depression. Tr. 234. She was 27 at the time of her alleged onset date and 35 at the time of the administrative hearing. Tr. 29-30. Plaintiff has a high school education and past relevant work experience as a certified nurse assistant and certified medical technician. Tr. 29-30.

         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 January 1, 2008. Tr. 20. Next, at steps two and three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: “fibromyalgia; polyarthralgias; asthma; major depressive disorder; dysthymia; generalized anxiety disorder; panic disorder; posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); somatization disorder; personality disorders (depressive, avoidant, dependent); and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” Tr. 20. However, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the severity of a listed impairment. Tr. ...


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