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Robert F. v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. Oregon

August 6, 2019

ROBERT F., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          BRUCE W. BREWER Law Offices of Bruce W. Brewer P.C. Attorney for Plaintiff

          BILLY J. WILLIAMS United States Attorney RENATA GOWIE Assistant United States Attorney

          MICHAEL W. PILE Acting Regional Chief Counsel LEISA A. WOLF Special Assistant United States Attorney Social Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION AND ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Robert F. seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) in which the Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         For the reasons that follow, the Court REVERSES the decision of the Commissioner and REMANDS this matter for further administrative proceedings.

         ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

         I. Prior Administrative Proceedings

         On March 10, 2010, Plaintiff protectively filed his application for SSI benefits. Tr. 144.[2] Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of August 5, 2007. Tr. 144, 242. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on March 28, 2012. Tr. 48-82. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified at the hearing. Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at the hearing.

         On April 9, 2012, the ALJ issued an opinion in which he found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 123-32. Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request and on June 7, 2013, remanded the matter to the ALJ for a new hearing. Tr. 137-40.

         On January 8, 2014, a second hearing was held. Tr. 26-47. Plaintiff testified at the hearing and was again represented by an attorney.

         On February 3, 2014, the ALJ issued an opinion and again found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 9-20. Plaintiff again requested review by the Appeals Council. On June 10, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request to review the ALJ's decision, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-3. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         On August 13, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. United States District Court, No. 3:15-cv-01532.

         On December 2, 2016, this Court reversed the decision of the Commissioner and remanded the matter for further administrative proceedings. Tr. 816-30.

         On January 24, 2017, pursuant to this Court's Order, the Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ for further review. Tr. 831-33.

         II. Current Administrative Proceedings

         Following remand by the Appeals Council, an ALJ held a hearing on June 28, 2017. Tr. 738-62. Plaintiff and a VE testified at the hearing. Plaintiff was represented by a non-attorney representative at the hearing.

         On October 5, 2017, the ALJ issued an opinion in which he found Plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 713-24. Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council. On May 29, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request to review the ALJ's decision, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 703-05. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).

         On August 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on July 15, 1955. Tr. 242. Plaintiff was 52 years old on his alleged disability onset date. Plaintiff has completed the 11th grade. Tr. 271. Plaintiff has past relevant work experience as a janitor, maintenance man, agricultural laborer, and freelance painter. Tr. 272, 280-81, 610.

         Plaintiff alleges disability due to depression, anxiety, social phobia, neurological stroke, and Hepatitis C. Tr. 270.

         Except as noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. After carefully reviewing the medical records, this Court adopts the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. See Tr. 719-23.

         STANDARDS

         The initial burden of proof rests on the claimant to establish disability. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012). To meet this burden, a claimant must demonstrate his inability "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. ยง 423(d)(1)(A). The ALJ must develop the record when there is ambiguous evidence or when the record is inadequate to allow for proper ...


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