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Blayr H. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

April 30, 2019

BLAYR H., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL W. MOSMAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Blayr H. ("Plaintiff) seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act") and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Act. For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and this case is REMANDED for further proceedings.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on August 31, 2015, and an application for SSI on November 13, 2015. Tr. 14. Plaintiff alleges a disability onset date of August 31, 2015, for both claims. Id. An administrative hearing was held on February 3, 2017, before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Tr. 33. Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the hearing. Id. Plaintiff, Plaintiffs grandmother, and a vocational expert testified at the hearing. Tr. 25, 34. The ALJ then issued an opinion finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. Tr. 27. Plaintiff timely requested review by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiffs request for review on December 15, 2017. Tr. 1. The Appeals Council's denial made the ALJ's determination that Plaintiff was not disabled the final decision of the Commissioner. Id. Plaintiff then timely filed this action challenging the Commissioner's decision.

         B. The ALJ's Findings

         The ALJ made her decision based upon the five-step sequential evaluation process established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. See Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520. At the first four steps of the process, the burden of proof is on the claimant; only at the fifth and final step does the burden of proof shift to the Commissioner. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098.

         At the first step of the five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date. Tr. 16.

         At the second step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: depression, anxiety, neurocognitive disorder, somatoform disorder, and multiple sclerosis (MS). Id.

         At the third step, the ALJ found that none of Plaintiff s impairments was the equivalent of any of the impairments enumerated in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. Tr. 21. The ALJ therefore conducted an assessment of Plaintiff s residual functional capacity (RFC). Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform:

light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except no exposure to extreme heat, or hazards, such as moving mechanical parts, or unprotected heights or operating a motor vehicle; no job with reasoning level above two; limited to perform simple and routine tasks; limited to simple work related decisions; and limited to occasional interaction with the public; and only frequent bilateral handling, fingering and feeling.

Tr. 18. In reaching this finding, the ALJ considered Plaintiffs symptoms and the extent to which those symptoms could reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence. Tr. 19-26. The ALJ also considered opinion evidence. Id.

         At fourth step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not able to perform her past relevant work as either a customer service call center worker or as a teller. Tr. 26.

         Considering Plaintiffs age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined at fifth step that there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national and local economy that Plaintiff could perform. Tr. 26-27. These jobs included ...


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