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Tana J. v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. Oregon

September 30, 2019

Tana J., [1] Plaintiff,


          Ann Aiken United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Tana J. seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits. This Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c). For the reasons below, the Commissioner's decision is REVERSED and the case REMANDED for an award of benefits.


         On October 3, 2013, plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits. Tr. 210.[2] She alleged disability beginning October 1, 2012, due to complications from hysterectomy surgery, chronic pelvic and abdominal pain, urinary and bowel pain, stage III endometriosis, fibromyalgia, anxiety, and depression. Tr. 80-81. After a hearing, the administrative law judge ("ALJ") determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. Tr. 37. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. This action followed, STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A reviewing court shall affirm the decision of the Commissioner if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson. v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). "Substantial evidence is 'more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."' Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Sandgathe v. Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997)). To determine whether substantial evidence exists, the district court must review the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and detracts from the decision of the ALJ. Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323, 326 (9th Cir. 1989).


         The Social Security Administration uses a five-step sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The burden of proof fall to the claimant at steps one through four, and with the Commissioner at step five. Id.; Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953-54 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999)). At step five, the Commissioner must show that the claimant can adjust to other work after considering the claimant's residual functional capacity ("RFC"), age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the Commissioner fails to meet this burden, then the claimant is disabled. Id. If, however, the Commissioner proves that the claimant can perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy, the claimant is not disabled. Id.; see also Bustamante, 262 F.3d at 953-54.

         Here, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ first determined that plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018. Tr. 23. At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not performed substantial gainful activity since October 1, 2012, her alleged onset date. Id. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: pelvic pain disorder of female genital organs, back pain with radiculopathy, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Id. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiffs impairments or combination of impairments did not meet or medically equal the severity of one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R, Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Tr. 24-25.

         Before proceeding the step four, the ALJ determined that plaintiffs RFC allowed her to perform sedentary work with these limitations:

[Plaintiff] can lift 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently. She can stand and walk for two hours in an eight-hour day, and sit for six hours in an eight-hour day. She can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can occasionally crawl. She must avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations. She can never tolerate exposure to workplace hazards such as exposed moving machinery and unprotected heights. She can perform simple, routine tasks, and can have occasional contact with the general-public."

Tr. 25.

         At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff could not perform any of her past relevant work. Tr. 30. At step five, the ALJ found that based on plaintiffs age, education, work experience, and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could sustain substantial gainful employment despite her impairments. Tr. 31. Specifically, the ALJ found that plaintiff could perform the representative occupations of addresser and semiconductor wafer breaker. Id. As a result, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled under the Act.

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by improperly discounting the opinions of plaintiffs treating physician and physical therapist and plaintiffs subjective symptom testimony.

         I. Treating ...

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