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Daniel W. E. v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

August 7, 2019

DANIEL W. E., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          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 his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) 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 further proceedings.

         For the reasons set out below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB benefits on May 21, 2013, alleging he had been disabled since October 15, 2012. After his claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing.

         On February 2, 2016, a hearing was convened before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Joanne Dantonio. Based on Plaintiff's presentation at the hearing, the matter was continued for a consultative examination to be conducted.

         On April 18, 2016, a second hearing was held. Plaintiff and Richard Hincks, an impartial vocational expert (VE), testified at the hearing. Plaintiff was represented by counsel and a non-attorney representative.

         In a decision dated August 31, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.

         On November 30, 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 1963 and was 53 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. He has a high school education and completed one year of college. Plaintiff has past relevant work as a can inspector, an industrial cleaner, a produce inspector, and an equipment cleaner.

         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 Two. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant has one or more severe impairments. A claimant who does not have such an impairment is not disabled. If the claimant has a severe impairment, the Commissioner proceeds to evaluate the claimant's case under Step Three. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).

         Step Three. Disability cannot be based solely on a severe impairment; therefore, the Commissioner next determines whether the claimant's impairment “meets or equals” one of the presumptively disabling impairments listed in the Social Security Administration (SSA) regulations, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. A claimant who has such an impairment is disabled. If the claimant's impairment does not meet or equal an impairment listed in the regulations, the Commissioner's evaluation of the claimant's case proceeds under Step Four. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d).

         Step Four. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is able to perform relevant work he or she has done in the past. A claimant who can perform past relevant work is not disabled. If the claimant demonstrates he or she cannot do work performed in the past, the Commissioner's evaluation ...


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