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Sylvia M. v. Commissioner Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

July 24, 2019

SYLVIA M., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          Christopher (Kit) Morgan Legal Aid Services of Oregon Attorney for Plaintiff

          Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney Renata Gowie, Asst. U.S. Attorney OR Kathryn Ann Miller Special Asst. U.S. Attorney Office of the General Counsel Social Security Administration Attorneys for Defendants

          OPINION AND ORDER

          John Jelderks U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under the Social Security Act (the Act). Plaintiff requests that the Court reverse the Commissioner's decision and remand this action to the Social Security Administration (the Agency).

         For the reasons set out below, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSI benefits on March 19, 2013, alleging she had been disabled since March 1, 2009. After her claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing.

         On February 2, 2016, a video hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) M.J. Adams. Plaintiff and Kimberly Mullinax, an impartial vocational expert (VE), testified at the hearing. Plaintiff was represented by counsel. At the hearing, Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date to March 19, 2013.

         In a decision dated March 18, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.

         On September 11, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. In the present action, Plaintiff challenges that decision.

         Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1975 and was 40 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. She obtained a GED. Although Plaintiff has past work experience as a cashier, the ALJ determined that her earnings during the relevant time period did not reach the level of substantial gainful activity and, therefore, Plaintiff had no past relevant work. Tr. 40, 186.

         Disability Analysis

         The ALJ engages in a five-step sequential inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. Below is a summary of the five steps, which also are described in Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999).

         Step One.

         The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA). A claimant engaged in such activity is not disabled. If the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner proceeds to evaluate the claimant's case under Step Two. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).

         Step ...


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