United States District Court, D. Oregon
OPINION AND ORDER
D. CLARKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Veronica G. seeks judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner denying her applications for SSI and SSDIB
under the Social Security Act. The parties have consented to
magistrate jurisdiction. For the reasons below, the
Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
who is now 50 years old, has applied for disability-related
benefits four times. On February 12, 1998, she filed an
application for supplemental security income
("SSI"), but the application was denied. On
September 15, 2000, she filed applications for disability
insurance benefits (DIB) and SSI, claiming disability since
January 1, 1995, but these were also denied. Plaintiffs third
set of applications for benefits were filed on March 7, 2007,
and these were granted. Tr. 419, 423. Plaintiff was in pay
status from 2007 to 2010. Tr. 18. She was then notified that
her disability had ceased due to a finding of medical
improvement, based in part on an investigation by the
Cooperative Disability Investigations Unit (CDIU). The
initial determination Was made July 21, 2010, and the
reconsideration dated April 14, 2011 came to the same
September 21, 2011, Plaintiff filed her fourth and most
recent set of applications for a period of disability, DIB
and SSL In both applications, Plaintiff alleges disability
beginning October 1, 2010, the date of the cessation of her
benefits due to medical improvements. These applications were
denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 213, 242. A
hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Kelly
Wilson on May 22, 2015 and a supplemental hearing was held on
March 22, 2016. Tr.7l, 115.
September 28, 2016, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled
because she found Plaintiff could perform the jobs of mail
sorter, storage facility rental clerk, and price marker, with
a residual functional capacity that limited plaintiff to
between the full range of sedentary work and less than the
full range of light work. Tr. 35, 60-61. Plaintiffs residual
functional capacity ("RFC"), according to the ALJ,
is largely the result of degenerative disc disease of the
spine and idiopathic hypersomnia. Tr. 35-52. The Appeals
Council of the Social Security Administration (AC) denied
Plaintiffs appeal of the ALJ's decision on October 19,
2017. Tr. 1-3. The record does not include the content of
Plaintiff s AC appeal other than noting additional medical
records were submitted. Id. Plaintiff timely filed a
Complaint for Review of Decision of Commissioner of Social
Security before this Court pursuant to 42 USC §405(g) on
December 22, 2017.
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 V. 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);
4l6.945(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.
made the following findings:
1. Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through September 30, 2014. Tr. 21.
2. Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
from the alleged onset date of October 1, 2010. Tr. 21.
3. Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: morbid
obesity, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar, thoracic,
and cervical spine, and idiopathic hypersomnia. Tr. 21.
4. Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments. Tr. 35.
5. Plaintiff has the RFC to perform the exertional and
non-exertional demands of light work, which is defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) as work that involves lifting
and carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently,
except that she is able to perform standing and/or walking
for up to 2 hours in an 8-hour workday. She is able to
perform frequent stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and
climbing of ramps and stairs, but no climbing of ladders,
ropes, scaffolds. She is able to perform simple and detailed
tasks, but more complex tasks would be difficult to maintain
consistently due to the effects of idiopathic hypersomnia.
6. Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. Tr.
7. Plaintiff was born on March 11, 1969 and was 41 years old,
which is defined as a younger individual, on the ...