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Anthony B. v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

March 13, 2019

ANTHONY B.[1], Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          Merrill Schneider, SCHNEIDER KERR & ROBICHAUX, Attorney for Plaintiff

          Renata Gowie, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE - DISTRICT OF OREGON, Thomas M. Elsberry SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER

          HERNÁNDEZ, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Anthony B. brings this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision to partially deny Plaintiff's claim for supplemental security income (SSI) and fully deny Plaintiff's claim for social security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits before May 1, 2014. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3)). The Court reverses the Commissioner's decision and remands for further proceedings.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for SSI and SSDI on December 24, 2013, alleging an onset date of March 31, 2010. Tr. 93-112. His applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 143-49, 157-62. On May 24, 2016, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Tr. 45-90. On August 29, 2016, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled before May 1, 2014, but disabled after that date. Tr. 39. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1-6.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges disability based on arthritis in his shoulders and hands, hernia, COPD, neuropathy in hands and feet, sleep apnea, tendonitis in both hands, and history of prostate cancer. Tr. 103. At the time of the hearing, he was 58 years old. Tr. 103 (stating date of birth). He completed high school. Tr. 54. Plaintiff has past relevant work as a steel inspector. Tr. 37.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY EVALUATION

         A 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), 1382c(a)(3)(A).

         Disability claims are evaluated according to a five-step procedure. See Valentine v. Comm'r, 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009) (in social security cases, agency uses five-step procedure to determine disability). 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. 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 plaintiff'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.

         In step 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 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 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 ALJ'S DECISION

         At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date. Tr. 28. Next, at steps two and three, the ALJ determined that, since the alleged onset date of disability, Plaintiff has severe impairments of prostate cancer and bilateral shoulder disorder. Tr. 29. Beginning on the established onset date of disability, May 1, 2014, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the additional severe impairment of a left foot disorder. Tr. 29. The ALJ determined that, since the ...


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