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Kimberly S. v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

November 28, 2018

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

          James Coon Scott A. Snell THOMAS, COON, NEWTON & FROST The Thomas Mann Building 820 SW 2nd Avenue, Suite 200 Portland, Oregon 97204 Attorney for Plaintiff

          Billy J. Williams UNITED STATES ATTORNEY District of Oregon, Renata Gowie ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Thomas M. Elsberry SPECIAL ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY Office of the General Counsel, Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER

          Marco A. Hernandez, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Kimberly S. brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for Social Security Disability (SSDI) under Title II of the Social Security Act. The Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). I reverse the Commissioner's decision and remand for additional proceedings.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for SSDI on October 1, 2013, alleging an onset date of March 31, 2012. Tr. 186-87. Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 90-105; Tr. 126-30 (Initial); Tr. 106-23, 132-34 (Recon.). On May 10, 2016, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who found that Plaintiff was not disabled. Tr. 14-39; Tr. 40-89. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1-6.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges disability based on having bipolar II disorder with psychosis. Tr. 423; Tr. 427. She was fifty-three years old at the time of the alleged onset date. Tr. 31. She has a high school education and past work experience as an administrator and secretary. Tr. 31; Tr. 52; Tr. 55.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY EVALUATION

         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 under a five-step procedure. Valentine v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 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.R.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 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 perform past relevant work, 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 the 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 has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 31, 2012, the alleged onset date. Tr. 19. At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the severe impairment of bipolar II disorder with psychosis. Id. However, at step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal, singly or in combination, a listed impairment. Tr. 20. At step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertion levels as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529 and SSR 96-4p, with the following limitations:

[Claimant] is able to perform simple routine tasks defined as no greater than reasoning level 2. She is able to tolerate few changes in a routine work setting, defined as a predictable work routine with simple work-related decisions. The claimant is able to perform work that does not require public contact. She is able to have occasional superficial contact with ...

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