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Moey C. v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

January 3, 2020

MOEY C., [1]Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MARCO A. HERNÁNDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff brings this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act and 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, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's decision and REMANDS this case for further administrative proceedings.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on February 1, 1968 and was forty-six years old on October 3, 2014, the alleged disability onset date. Tr. 13, 23.[2] Plaintiff has a limited education and is unable to perform any past relevant work. Tr. 23. Plaintiff claims she is disabled based on conditions including degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease/tendonitis of the left shoulder, anxiety, and DEPRESSION. Tr. 16.

         Plaintiff filed her application for benefits on December 12, 2014. Tr. 13. The application was denied initially on April 10, 2015, and upon reconsideration on June 25, 2015. Tr. 13. A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge John Michaelsen on March 23, 2017. Tr. 35- 54. ALJ Michaelsen issued a written decision on June 15, 2017, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled and therefore not entitled to benefits. Tr. 24. The Appeals Council declined review, rendering ALJ Michaelsen's decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1-6.

         SEQUENTIAL DISABILITY ANALYSIS

         A 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.

         At step 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.

         At step 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.

         At 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, 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. §§ 404.1566, 416.966.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. Tr. 15.

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had “the following severe impairments: history of carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease/tendonitis of the left shoulder, right hip arthralgia, anxiety, and depression.” Tr. 16. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff's hypertension was not a severe impairment. Tr. 16.

         At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have any impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the ...


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