United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
Karen L. H.,  Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
Merrill Schneider Schneider Kerr & Robichaux Attorney for
Williams United States Attorney Renata Gowie Assistant United
States Attorney Alexis L. Toma Social Security Administration
Office of the General Counsel Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION & ORDER
A. HERNÁNDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Karen L. H. brings this action for judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision denying her applications
for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under
Title II of the Social Security Act and supplemental security
income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act. The
Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
(incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)). The issues
before the Court are whether the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) erred by: (1) failing to include all
severe limitations at step two of the sequential analysis;
(2) discrediting Plaintiff's testimony; (3) discrediting
the lay testimony of Plaintiff's son, Dustin Damon Robert
Brumitt; and (4) relying on occupations that represent an
insufficient number of jobs available in the national economy
to carry the Commissioner's burden at step five. For the
reasons that follow, the Commissioner's decision is
reversed and remanded for further administrative proceedings
consistent with this Opinion and Order.
filed applications for DIB and SSI on July 25, 2013, in which
she alleged a disability-onset date of February 28, 2002. Tr.
185, 187. Plaintiff's applications were denied
initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff's
administrative hearing was held on February 4, 2016, before
ALJ S. Andrew Grace. Tr. 39-63. In a written decision issued
May 17, 2016, ALJ Grace found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr.
20-33. On August 28, 2017, the Appeals Council denied review,
rendering ALJ Grace's decision final. Tr. 1-5.
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.
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.
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.
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. §§
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since February 28, 2002, the alleged onset
date. Tr. 22-23.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: hypertension, obesity, “hernia status post
repair, ” neuropathy, recurrent kidney stones, and
anxiety. Tr. 23-25.
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff's impairments or
combination of impairments did not meet or equal the severity
of one of the listed impairments. Tr. 25-27.
step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the RFC to
perform work consistent with the following limitations:
[T]he claimant had the residual functional capacity to
perform sedentary work, which is defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except her postural activities are
restricted to only occasional climbing ramps/stairs,
balancing, stooping, kneeling, and crouching. Additionally,
she can never climb ladders/ropes/scaffolds and never crawl.
The residual functional capacity includes a limitation to
simple, repetitive, and routine tasks consistent with
unskilled work. Additionally, she is limited to low stress
work, which is defined as work requiring few decisions and
few changes. A further restriction is to only occasional
contact with the public and coworkers. The claimant is able
to frequently finger and feel with the dominant right hand.
four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff did not have any past
relevant work. Tr. 31.
five, the ALJ concluded other jobs existed in the national
economy that Plaintiff could perform, including work as an
addresser and charge account clerk. Tr. 32. Accordingly, ...