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Walk v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

March 20, 2014

RHONDA WALK, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Rhonda Walk, Plaintiff: D James Tree, LEAD ATTORNEY, D James Tree Law Office, Yakima, WA.

For Carolyn W Colvin, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Pamela Jean DeRusha, LEAD ATTORNEY, U S Attorney's Office - SPO, Spokane, WA; Leisa A Wolf, Social Security Administration - SEA, Seattle, WA.

OPINION

Page 1284

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND REMAND FOR BENEFITS

WM. FREMMING NIELSEN, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Before the Court are cross-Motions for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. 14 and 15). Attorney D. James Tree represents Plaintiff; Special Assistant United States Attorney Leisa A. Wolf represents Defendant. The Court has reviewed the administrative record and briefs filed by the parties and is fully informed.

JURISDICTION

Plaintiff protectively applied for disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits on February 10, 2009, alleging disability beginning on December 27, 2008, due to physical impairments. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration.

A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) James W. Sherry on April 21, 2011. At the hearing, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, testified as did Scott Whitmer, a vocational expert (VE). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request for review and awarded partial benefits for the period of January 2, 2009 to January 2, 2010. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this final decision is appealable to the district court. Plaintiff sought judicial review on February 18, 2013.

FACTS

The facts of the case are set forth in detail in the transcript of the proceedings and are briefly summarized here. Plaintiff was 54 years old at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 54) She has an eleventh grade education and is literate. (Tr. 55) She had no special vocational training. Id. She lived with her only daughter and four minor grandchildren. Id. She has a forty year work history mostly working in fruit processing plants. (Tr. 57 - 61) She stopped working when she experience bleeding that lead to hospitalization, surgery, and blood transfusions. (Tr. 61, 68 - 70) She has been diagnosed with cirrhosis and Hepatitis C. (Tr. 62) Though the gastrointestinal issues have improved, Plaintiff suffers from fatigue and pain. (Tr. 63 - 65) She is able to do some chores around the house, but cannot stand or sit for long periods of time. (Tr. 65) She used to drink

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alcohol on a regular basis, but quit in 2008 after the bleeding episodes. (Tr. 62)

SEQUENTIAL PROCESS

The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a), 416.920(a); see Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42, 107 S.Ct. 2287, 96 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987). In steps one through four, the burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish a prima facie case of entitlement to disability benefits. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999). This burden is met once a claimant establishes that a physical or mental impairment prevents him from engaging in his previous occupation. 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). If a claimant cannot do his past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to step five, and the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that (1) the claimant can make an adjustment to other work; and (2) specific jobs exist in the national economy which claimant can perform. Batson v. Comm'r, ...


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