United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division
JAMES A. K.,  Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
D. CLARKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
James K. ("Plaintiff') seeks judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administrations denying his claim for supplemental security
income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. For the
reasons provided below, the Commissioner's decision is
was born October 5, 1990 and was twenty-three (23) when he
filed his application for supplemental security income on
July 3, 2014. Tr. 192. Plaintiff has an 11th grade education
and did not obtain a GED. Tr. 70-71. Plaintiff does not have
past relevant work experience and claims the only job he ever
had was doing yard work for friends, Tr. 48-49. Plaintiff
occasionally uses marijuana and metharnphetamine (Tr. 47),
and has a history of homelessness and prostitution (Tr. 589).
Plaintiff was put into foster care at age five and remained
in the foster care system for the remainder of his childhood,
Tr. 294, 483. There are some discrepancies in the record, but
it appears that Plaintiff remained with one foster family for
at least eight years before being transferred to a different
foster care facility after a psychiatric hospital admission.
alleges disability due to mental, emotional, and behavioral
limitations. In his application, Plaintiff alleges disability
began on October 5, 2006 (Tr. 192), but claims in his brief
that he received child SSI benefits up until May 9, 2011.
Plf.'s Br. at 1 (#15). Two hearings concerning Plaintiffs
disability application were held in Portland, Oregon. Tr. 23.
At the first hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged onset
date to May 9, 2011 at the advice of his attorney.
Id. Plaintiff testified by phone at the first
hearing because he was incarcerated in the Clackamas County
Jail on a misdemeanor assault conviction for assaulting his
girlfriend. Id. The hearing was continued to allow
Plaintiff an opportunity to testify in person. Id. A
second hearing was held on November 22, 2016. Id. On
February 14, 2017, Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")
Campbell issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled.
Tr. 23-35. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for
review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
the Commissioner. Tr. 1.
claimant is disabled if he or 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). Each step is
potentially dispositive. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(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);
416.920(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; 416.910. 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); 416.920(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); 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Unless expected to
result in death, an impairment 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); 416.921(a). This impairment must have lasted or
must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least
12 months. 20 C.F.R. §§404.1509; 416.909. If the
claimant does not have a severe impairment, the analysis
ends. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii);
416.920(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); 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the impairment
does not meet or equal one or more of the listed impairments,
the analysis proceeds to the "residual functional
capacity" ("RFC") assessment.
a. The ALJ must evaluate medical and other relevant evidence
to assess and determine the claimant's 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); 416.920(e);
416.945(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);
416.920(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 No. in the national
economy? If so, then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v); 416.920(a)(4)(v);
404.1560(c); 416.960(c). If the claimant cannot perform such
work, he or she is disabled. Id.
also Bustamante v. Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 954-55
(9th Cir. 2001).
claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four.
Id. at 954. The Commissioner bears the burden of
proof at step five. Id. at 953-54. At step five, the
Commissioner must show that the claimant can perform other
work that exists in significant No. in the national economy,
"taking into consideration the claimant's residual
functional capacity, age, education, and work
experience." Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094,
1100 (9th Cir. 1999) (internal citations omitted); see also
20 C;F.R §§ 404.1566; 416.966 (describing
"work which exists in the national economy"). If
the Commissioner fails to meet this burden, the claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v);
416.920(a)(4)(v). If, however, the Commissioner proves that
the claimant is able to perform other work existing in
significant No. in the national economy, the claimant is not
disabled. Bustamante, 262 F.3d at 954-55; Tackett,
the five-step analysis, the ALJ made the following findings:
1. Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since March 12, 2014, the application date. Tr. 25.
2. Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: depressive
disorder, borderline intellectual functioning, personality
disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and polysubstance
abuse. Tr. 25.
3. Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. Tr. 26.
a. Plaintiff has the RFC to perform a full range of work at
all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional
limitations: He can do simple routine work with occasional
contact with supervisors ...