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Jeffery W. v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon

August 31, 2019

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

          George J. Wall Attorney for Plaintiff

          Billy J. Williams United States Attorney Renata Gowie Assistant United States Attorney District of Oregon Joseph J. Langkamer Social Security Administration Office of the General Counsel Attorneys for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER

          Marco A. Hernández United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Jeffrey W. brings this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision to deny supplemental security income (SSI). This Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3)). The Court reverses and remands the Commissioner's decision for further administrative proceedings.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI on September 26, 2013, alleging an onset date of March 31, 1995. Tr. 143.[2] His application for DIB was denied initially and on reconsideration based on res judicata. Tr. 44-46, 51-53. Plaintiff voluntarily withdrew his DIB claim in a letter dated January 11, 2016. Tr. 117. Plaintiff's SSI claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 19.

         On January 26, 2016, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Tr. 633. On April 27, 2016, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 33. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 7.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleged disability based on manic depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, antisocial personality disorder, severe hypertension, and sleep apnea. Tr. 148. At the time of the application, he was 42 years old. Tr. 31. He has a high school education and no past relevant work experience. Tr. 31.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY EVALUATION

         A claimant is disabled if they are 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), 1382c(a)(3)(A). Disability claims are evaluated according to a five-step procedure. See Valentine v. Comm'r, 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009) (in social security cases, agency uses five-step procedure to determine disability. The claimant bears the ultimate burden of proving disability. Id.

         In the first step, the Commissioner determines whether a claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” If so, the claimant is not disabled. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). In step two, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant has a “medically severe impairment or combination of impairments.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 140-41; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c. If not, the claimant is not disabled.

         In step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's impairments, singly or in combination, meet or equal “one of a number of listed impairments that the [Commissioner] acknowledges are so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity.” Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If so, the claimant is conclusively presumed disabled; if not, the Commissioner proceeds to step four. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141.

         In step four, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant, despite any impairment(s), has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform “past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If the claimant can perform past relevant work, the claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. In step five, the Commissioner must establish that the claimant can perform other work. Yuckert, 482 U.S. at 141-42; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) & (f), 416.920(e) & (f). If the Commissioner meets his burden and proves that the claimant can perform other work that exists in the national economy, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity after his application date of September 26, 2013. Tr. 22. Next, at steps two and three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: “bipolar disorder vs. depressive disorder, anxiety-related disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and cannabis dependence.” Tr. 22. However, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the severity of a listed impairment. Tr. 23. At step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with the following limitations:

The claimant can perform simple, repetitive tasks. The claimant cannot have interaction with the public. The claimant can have superficial interaction with coworkers and supervisors. The claimant should have a job where he is working primarily in isolation and in an environment with a limited number of people. (i.e., no more than 5 coworkers). The claimant should not work in coordination with others.

Tr. 24. Plaintiff had no past relevant work. Tr. 31. But at step five the ALJ found that jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, such as “industrial cleaner, ” “laundry worker II, ” and “cleaner, housekeeping.” Tr. 32. Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is not disabled. Tr. 33.

         STANDARD ...


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