United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION & ORDER
D. CLARKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Jason Shirley seeks judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administrations
denying his applications for disability insurance benefits
and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of
the Social Security Act. The parties have consented to
magistrate jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). For the reasons below, the
Commissioner's decision is REVERSED and REMANDED for
immediate payment of benefits.
was born in 1986 and was 23 years old when he alleges his
disability began, Tr, 421. Plaintiff completed the twelfth
grade (Tr. 202), and has past work as an administrative
clerk, shuttle driver, plastic line operator, and oil change
pitman. Tr. 420, 657. Plaintiff alleges disability due to
immunoglobulin nephropathy, immune deficiency, rheumatoid
arthritis, stage one kidney failure, chronic pain disorder,
fibromyalgia, migraines, and posttraumatic stress disorder or
generalized anxiety disorder. Tr. 201, 406.
filed a Title II application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits and a Title XVI application for
social security income on July 20, 2010. Tr. 24. In both
applications, Plaintiff alleged disability beginning June 30,
2009. Tr. 24. Both applications were initially denied and
upon reconsideration, Plaintiff filed a written request for
hearing. Tr. 131. A hearing was held before an administrative
law judge (ALJ) and a decision denying benefits was issued on
March 26, 2012. Tr. 21-36. The Appeals Council affirmed the
decision, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
the Commissioner. Tr. 1-3. Plaintiff then appealed and this
Court reversed the decision and remanded the claim for
further administrative proceedings. Tr. 517-19.
August 12, 2016, a second hearing was held before an ALJ. Tr.
431-94. Plaintiff, witness Michael Shirley, and a vocational
expert all testified at the hearing. Tr. 431-94. The ALJ
issued a decision again denying benefits on May 10, 2017. Tr.
403-22. Plaintiff now seeks review of the ALJ's 2017
claimant is disabled if he or 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). "Social Security Regulations set out a
five-step sequential process for determining whether an
applicant is disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act." Keyser v. Comm'r. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011). Each step is
potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The five-step sequential
process asks the following series of questions:
1. Is the claimant performing "substantial gainful
activity"? 20 C.F.R. §§404.1520(a)(4)(i);
416.920(a)(4)(i). This activity is work involving significant
mental or physical duties done or intended to be done for pay
or profit. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1510; 416.910. If the
claimant is performing such work, she is not disabled within
the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R.
§§404.1520(a)(4)(i); 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the
claimant is not performing substantial gainful activity, the
analysis proceeds to step two.
2. Is the claimant's impairment "severe" under
the Commissioner's regulations? 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii); 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Unless expected to
result in death, an impairment is "severe" if it
significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental
ability to do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1521(a); 416.921(a). This impairment must have lasted or
must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least
12 months. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509; 416.909. If the
claimant does not have a severe impairment, the analysis
ends. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii);
416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant has a severe impairment,
the analysis proceeds to step three.
3. Does the claimant's severe impairment "meet or
equal" one or more of the impairments listed in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, then the
claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii); 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the impairment
does not meet or equal one or more of the listed impairments,
the analysis proceeds to the "residual functional
capacity" ("RFC") assessment.
a. The ALJ must evaluate medical and other relevant evidence
to assess and determine the claimant's RFC. This is an
assessment of work-related activities that the claimant may
still perform on a regular and continuing basis, despite any
limitations imposed by his or her impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e); 404.1545(b)-(c); 416.920(e);
416.945(b)-(c). After the ALJ determines the claimant's
RFC, the analysis proceeds to step four,
4. Can the claimant perform his or her "past relevant
work" with this RFC assessment? If so, then the claimant
is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§404.1520(a)(4)(iv);
416.920(a)(4)(iv), If the claimant cannot perform his or her
past relevant work, the analysis proceeds to step five.
5. Considering the claimant's RFC and age, education, and
work experience, is the claimant able to make an adjustment
to other work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy? If so, then the claimant is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v); 416.920(a)(4)(v);
404.1560(c); 416.960(c). If the claimant cannot perform such
work, he or she is disabled. Id.
See also Bustamanle v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949,
954-55 (9th Cir. 2001).
claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four.
Id. at 954. The Commissioner bears the burden of
proof at step five. Id. at 953-54. At step five, the
Commissioner must show that the claimant can perform other
work that exists in significant numbers in the national
economy, "taking into consideration the claimant's
residual functional capacity, age, education, and work
experience." Tackett v. Apfel,180 F.3d 1094,
1100 (9th Cir. 1999) (internal citations omitted); see
also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566; 416.966
(describing "work which exists in the national
economy"). If the Commissioner fails to meet this
burden, the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v); 416.920(a)(4)(v). If, however, the
Commissioner proves that ...