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Delano O. N. v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

August 14, 2019

DELANO O. N., [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 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 an award of benefits or, in the alternative, for further proceedings.

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

         Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for SSI benefits on December 12, 2013, alleging disability as of the same date. After his claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing.

         On June 23, 2016, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Britannia Hobbs. Plaintiff and Nancy Bloom, an impartial vocational expert (VE), testified at the hearing. Plaintiff was represented by counsel.

         In a partially favorable amended decision dated October 18, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was disabled as of July 23, 2015, the date he turned age 55, but was not disabled prior to that date.

         On July 19, 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 1960 and was 56 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. He completed 7th grade and has past relevant work as a furniture mover/driver and an odd-job worker.

         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), 416.920(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), 416.920(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), 416.920(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 of the claimant's case proceeds under Step Five. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f).

         Step Five. The Commissioner determines whether the claimant is able to do any other work. A claimant who cannot perform other work is disabled. If the Commissioner finds that the claimant is able to do other work, the Commissioner must show that a significant number of jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant can do. The Commissioner may satisfy this burden through the testimony of a vocational expert (VE) or by reference to the Medical-Vocational Guidelines, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2. If the Commissioner demonstrates that a significant number of jobs exist in the national economy that the claimant can do, the claimant is not disabled. If the Commissioner does not meet this burden, the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g)(1), 416.920(g).

         At Steps One through Four, the burden of proof is on the claimant. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098. At Step Five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant can perform jobs ...


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