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Bruce C. v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 8, 2019

BRUCE C., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          Katherine Tassinari Mark Manning HARDER, WELLS, BARON & MANNING, P.C. Attorneys for Plaintiff

          Renata Gowie Assistant United States Attorney District of Oregon Portland, OR 97204 Erin Highland Social Security Administration Office of the General Counsel Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Bruce C. brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying his 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 April 10, 2013, alleging disability as of March 22, 2013. Tr. 103-04, 108-09.[2] Plaintiff's date last insured (“DLI”) is June 30, 2012. Tr. 103-04. His application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 148-55, 158-63. On January 8, 2016, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 41. At the hearing, Plaintiff asked to withdraw his request for a hearing on the DIB claim. Tr. 19, 44-45. Having found that Plaintiff understood the effects of his withdrawal, the ALJ dismissed the DIB claim. Tr. 19. Addressing only Plaintiff's SSI claim, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled in a decision dated July 28, 2016. Tr. 33. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initially alleged disability based on systolic dysfunction with an ejection fraction estimated at 30%, nonischemic cardiomyopathy, and a dilated left ventricle. Tr. 267. He was 46 at the time of his amended alleged onset date and 49 at the time of the administrative hearing. Tr. 79. Plaintiff has a high school education and past relevant work experience as a “Cashier, checker.” Tr. 31.

         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 ...


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