United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division
OPINION AND ORDER
D. Clarke, United States Magistrate Judge.
Shelley P. ("Plaintiff') seeks judicial review of
the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration denying her claims for a period of disability
and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the
Social Security Act. For the reasons provided below, the
Commissioner's decision is REVERSED and REMANDED for
was born April 20, 1963, and was 53 years old at the time her
coverage period for disability insurance expired on December
31, 2016. Tr. 18, 27, 144. She has past relevant work
experience as a police officer. Tr. 27. In 2010, while
working as a police officer, Plaintiff was in a bike crash
that injured her knees. Tr. 536. Plaintiff underwent knee
surgery in 2011 and again in 2016. Tr. 338-40, 401-04,
410-13. Plaintiffs primary allegations of disability stem
from impairment of her knees and pain from fibromyalgia. Tr.
filed an application for disability insurance benefits on
April 14, 2014, alleging disability beginning April 5, 2011.
Tr. 18. Plaintiffs claim for disability was denied initially
and upon reconsideration. Tr. 18. A hearing was held on March
3, 2017, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")
Katherine Weatherly. Tr. 40-60. On April 24, 2017, the ALJ
issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled at any point
through her date last insured. Tr. 18-29. On May 7, 2018, the
Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision
the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1. Plaintiff now
appeals that final decision.
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.
See 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, 180 F.3d at 1099.
the five-step analysis, the ALJ made the following findings:
1. Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act on December 31, 2016. Plaintiff did not
engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from
her alleged onset date of April 5, 2011 ...