United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
Wilborn Attorney for Plaintiff
Williams United States Attorney Renata Gowie Assistant United
Heather L. Griffith Social Security Administration Office of
the General Counsel Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION & ORDER
A. HERNÁNDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Judi T.-C. brings this action for judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision denying her application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security 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) discounting Plaintiff's testimony; (2) discounting
the lay opinion of Carol Rogers, Plaintiff's friend and
employer; (3) classifying Plaintiff's past relevant work
as that of a “receptionist” when the ALJ found
Plaintiff capable of performing such work at step four; and
(4) finding in the alternative that Plaintiff is capable of
performing other work available in the national economy at
step five. The Court reverses the Commissioner's final
decision and remands for further administrative proceedings
consistent with this Opinion and Order.
applied for DIB on October 17, 2013, alleging a disability
onset date of July 2, 2013. Tr. 172. Plaintiff's application
was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Plaintiff's administrative hearing was held on January
23, 2017, before ALJ Elizabeth Watson. Tr. 29. In a written
decision issued February 17, 2017, ALJ Watson found Plaintiff
not disabled. Tr. 14-23. On March 16, 2018, the Appeals
Council denied review, rendering ALJ Watson'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 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.
§§ 404.1566, 416.966.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since July 2, 2013, the alleged onset date.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease of the
cervical spine, and left sternoclavicular joint arthritis.
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. 18.
step four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the RFC to
perform work consistent with the following limitations:
[C]laimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she is
limited to lifting and/or carrying 20 pounds occasionally and
10 pounds frequently. [Sh]e is limited to sitting, standing,
and/or walking each about six hours each in an eight hour
workday, with normal breaks. The claimant is limited to no
more than frequent climbing of ramps or stairs and no
climbing of ladders, ropes, or ...