United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION & ORDER
A. HERNÁNDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
brings this action for judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act. The Court has jurisdiction
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (incorporated by 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382(c)(3)). Because the Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) failed to meet the Commissioner's step five burden,
and the Appeals Council erred in rejecting medical opinion
testimony, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's decision
and REMANDS this case for further administrative proceedings.
was born on January 24, 1980 and was thirty-four years old on
February 14, 2014, the alleged disability onset date. Tr.
Plaintiff has at least a high school education and has no
past relevant work. Tr. 21. Plaintiff claims she is disabled
based on conditions including scoliosis with back pain. Tr.
filed her application for benefits on February 18, 2014. The
application was denied initially on February 27, 2015, and
upon reconsideration on May 19, 2015. Tr. 11. A hearing was
held before Administrative Law Judge Robert F. Campbell on
January 3, 2017. Tr. 30-48. ALJ Campbell issued a written
decision on February 13, 2017, finding that Plaintiff was not
disabled and therefore not entitled to benefits. Tr. 26. The
Appeals Council granted review and issued a decision on June
12, 2018, adopting the ALJ's findings and concluding that
Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. Tr. 1-6.
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). Disability claims are evaluated according to a
five-step procedure. Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009). The claimant
bears the ultimate burden of proving disability. Id.
one, 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). At 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.
three, the Commissioner determines whether 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.
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, the claimant is not disabled. If the
claimant cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts
to the Commissioner. At 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 its burden and proves that the claimant is
able to perform other work which exists in the national
economy, the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the application filing
date. Tr. 13.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had “the
following severe impairments: adolescent scoliosis with back
pain and no neurologic deficit or significant progress in
deformity.” Tr. 14. The ALJ determined that
Plaintiff's restless leg syndrome, sleep disturbance,
fatty liver, and tobacco abuse were not severe impairments.
three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have any
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments. Tr. 16.
proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform ...