United States District Court, D. Oregon
Katherine L. Eitenmiller HARDER, WELLS, BARON & MANNING,
P.C. Attorney for Plaintiff
Eugene, Oregon 97401 Attorney for Plaintiff Renata Gowie
Assistant United States Attorney Lisa Goldoftas Social
Security Administration Attorneys for Defendant
OPINION & ORDER
Hernandez United States District Judge
J. (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her
application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(the “Act”). For reasons discussed below, the
Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded for the
immediate payment of benefits.
filed an application for DIB in September 2014, alleging
disability beginning July 15, 2012. Tr. 163-64. The
Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and
upon reconsideration. Tr. 111-20. Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). Tr. 121-23. In a decision dated August
9, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 20-32. The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Tr. 1-7; see also 20 C.F.R. §
422.210(a). Plaintiff seeks judicial review of that decision.
This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
was born in March 1962. Tr. 163. She alleged disability due
to bipolar disorder, manic/depressive episodes, situational
anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder. Tr. 182. Plaintiff completed
four years of college and has past work experience as a home
attendant, general office clerk, material handler, customer
service representative, telephone solicitor, and
receptionist. Tr. 30, 183-84.
claimant is disabled if 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). “Social Security Regulations set out a
five-step sequential process for determining whether an
applicant is disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act.” Keyser v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724 (9th Cir. 2011); see
also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (DIB); Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). Each step is
potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). The
five-step sequential process asks the following series of
1. Is the claimant performing “substantial gainful
activity?” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). This
activity is work involving significant mental or physical
duties done or intended to be done for pay or profit. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1510. If the claimant is performing such
work, she is not disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is not
performing substantial gainful activity, the analysis
proceeds to step two.
2. Is the claimant's impairment “severe”
under the Commissioner's regulations? 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). An impairment or combination of
impairments is “severe” if it significantly
limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(a). Unless
expected to result in death, this impairment must have lasted
or be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12
months. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1509. If the claimant does not
have a severe impairment, the analysis ends. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant has a severe impairment,
the analysis proceeds to step three.
3. Does the claimant's severe impairment “meet or
equal” one or more of the impairments listed in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1? If so, then the
claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii).
If the impairment does not meet or equal one or more of the
listed impairments, the analysis continues. At that point,
the ALJ must evaluate medical and other relevant evidence to
assess and determine the claimant's “residual
functional capacity” (“RFC”). This is an
assessment of work-related activities that the claimant may
still perform on a regular and continuing basis, despite any
limitations imposed by his or her impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 404.1545(b)-(c). After the ALJ
determines the claimant's RFC, the analysis proceeds to
4. Can the claimant perform his or her “past relevant
work” with this RFC assessment? If so, then the
claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant cannot perform his or her
past relevant work, the analysis proceeds to step five.
5. Considering the claimant's RFC and age, education, and
work experience, is the claimant able to make an adjustment
to other work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy? If so, then the claimant is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), ...