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Kellie Ann B. v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

June 18, 2019

KELLIE ANN B.[1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          John E. Haapala Attorney for Plaintiff

          Billy J. Williams UNITED STATES ATTORNEY District of Oregon Renata Gowie ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

          Joseph J. Langkamer SPECIAL ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY Office of the General Counsel Social Security Administration

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNANDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Kellie Ann B. brings this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision to deny supplemental security income (SSI). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3)). I affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for SSI on September 22, 2014, alleging an onset date of November 1, 2013. Tr. 151-59. Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 62-75, 91-94 (Initial); Tr. 75-90, 98-100 (Recon.). On April 4, 2017, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 27-58. On June 28, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 10-26. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1-6.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges disability based on having ulcerative colitis, a fractured back, seizures, migraines, chronic pain, and one kidney. Tr. 168. At the time of the hearing, she was fifty years old. Tr. 151 (showing date of birth). She has a GED and has past relevant work experience as a fast food worker and a telemarketer. Tr. 21, 169.

         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 her application date. Tr. 15. Next, at steps two and three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe impairments of degenerative disc disease, migraines, and right knee patellar chondromalacia, but that the impairments did not meet or equal, either singly or in combination, a listed impairment. Tr. 15-17.

         At step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c), with the following limitations: (1) she can occasionally balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, crawl, and climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; (2) she can frequently climb ramps and stairs and use foot pedals with her lower extremities; (3) she should avoid hazards such as machinery and unprotected heights; and (4) she can understand, remember, and carry out only short and simple instructions. Tr. 17. With this RFC, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is able to ...


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