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Katharine J. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Oregon

August 29, 2019

KATHARINE J., Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, acting COMMISSIONER of Social Security, Defendant.

          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

          Marco Hernandez United States District Judge

         Katharine 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.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff 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. § 405(g).

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff 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.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         A 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 questions:

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 step four.
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. ยงยง 404.1520(a)(4)(v), ...

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