United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION & ORDER
D. CLARKEUNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Sulumon Muhammad seeks judicial review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administrations
denying his applications for supplemental security income
under Title 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
was born February 13, 1966 and has a 10th grade education.
Tr. 46. Plaintiff has past work as an unskilled caregiver,
ditch-digger, dishwasher, and fast-food cashier. Tr. 48-49,
68-70, 191, 489, 623. Plaintiff alleges disability due to
chronic complete left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear
with severe left knee degenerative joint disease, bilateral
foot neuropathy, bilateral first metatarsal degenerative
joint disease, chronic hip strain, chronic low back pain,
asthma, learning disorder, depression, anxiety disorder, and
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Plf. Br. at 6 (#17).
Plaintiff is addicted to alcohol and drugs, but claims to be
disabled independent of substance use. Plf. Br. at 6-7.
filed a Title XVI application for supplemental security
income on June 13, 2014, alleging disability beginning May
15, 2005. Tr. 17, 74. His application was initially denied on
March 20, 2015, and upon reconsideration on November 3, 2015.
Tr. 17. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a written request for
hearing. Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing held
on March 15, 2017 before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
At the hearing, Plaintiffs representative amended his alleged
onset date to his protective filing date of June 13, 2014.
Tr. 17. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May 19,
2017. Tr. 17-38. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs
request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-5, 7. Plaintiff now seeks
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)(H); 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)(H);
416.920(a)(4)(H). 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 No. 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);