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Henry M. v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

April 26, 2019

PATRICK HENRY M.,[1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNANDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying his 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)). Because the Commissioner's decision is free of legal error and supported by substantial evidence in the record, the Court AFFIRMS the decision and DISMISSES this case.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on August 20, 1954 and was fifty-seven years old on August 1, 2012, the alleged disability onset date. Tr. 19, 28.[2] Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act (“SSA” or “Act”) through December 31, 2013. Tr. 19. Plaintiff has at least a high school education and is unable to perform any past relevant work. Tr. 28. Plaintiff claims he is disabled based on conditions including depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and blindness in one eye. Tr. 194.

         Plaintiff's benefits application was denied initially on July 22, 2013, and upon reconsideration on December 11, 2013. Tr. 19. A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge John Michaelsen on September 28, 2015. Tr. 34-56. ALJ Michaelsen issued a written decision on October 8, 2015, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled and therefore not entitled to benefits. Tr. 19-29. The Appeals Council declined review, rendering ALJ Michaelsen's decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1-6.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         A claimant is disabled if he 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.

         At step one, 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.

         At step 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.

         At 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, 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.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability onset date. Tr. 21.

         At step two, the ALJ determined that, through the date last insured, Plaintiff “had the following severe impairments: loss of vision in the right eye; a history of chronic, intermittent diarrhea; history of major depressive disorder and PTSD; status post fracture with rule out of carpal tunnel syndrome in the left upper extremity.” Tr. 21-22. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff's history of kidney stones and renal colic were not severe. Tr. 22.

         At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have any impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. Tr. 22. In particular, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's conditions did not meet the requirements of Listing 1.02, 2.02, 12.04, or 12.06. Tr. 22-24.

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work ...


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