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Cheetham v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

March 24, 2014

JOSIE CRUZ CHEETHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

Page 1147

For Josie Cruz Cheetham, Plaintiff: Randy J Fair, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Calbom & Schwab PSC, Moses Lake, WA.

For Carolyn W Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Jeffrey R McClain, LEAD ATTORNEY, Social Security Administration, Seattle, WA; Pamela Jean DeRusha, LEAD ATTORNEY, U S Attorney's Office - SPO, Spokane, WA.

For SSA, Interested Party: Jeffrey R McClain, LEAD ATTORNEY, Social Security Administration, Seattle, WA.

Page 1148

DECISION AND ORDER

VICTOR E. BIANCHINI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

I. INTRODUCTION

In August of 2010, Plaintiff Josie Cruz Cheetham applied for Disability Insurance Benefits under the Social Security Act. The Commissioner of Social Security denied the application.

Plaintiff, represented by the Law Offices of Calbom & Schwab, PSC, Randy J. Fair, Esq., of counsel, commenced this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § § 405 (g) and 1383 (c)(3). The parties consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge. (Docket No. 7).

On February 3, 2014, the Honorable Rosanna Malouf Peterson, Chief United States District Judge, referred this case to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B). (Docket No. 23).

Page 1149

II. BACKGROUND

The procedural history may be summarized as follows:

On August 31, 2010, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning May 30, 2001. (T at 147-55).[1] The application was denied initially and Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ). On October 19, 2011, a hearing was held before ALJ Marie Palachuk. (T at 45). Plaintiff appeared with an attorney and testified. (T at 61-70). The ALJ also received testimony from Diane Kramer, a vocational expert (T at 71-73) and Dr. Minh D. Vu, a medical expert (T at 50-71). During the hearing, Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date to December 31, 2006. (T at 25).

On November 23, 2011, ALJ Palachuk issued a written decision denying the application for benefits and finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (T at 22-38). The ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision on May 9, 2012, when the Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (T at 1-6).

On July 2, 2012, Plaintiff, acting by and through her counsel, timely commenced this action by filing a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. (Docket No. 5). The Commissioner interposed an Answer on September 7, 2012. (Docket No. 10).

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment with supporting memorandum of law on January 7, 2013. (Docket No. 16, 17). The Commissioner moved for summary judgment on February 19, 2013. (Docket No. 20). As noted above, the parties consented to the jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge. (Docket No. 7).

For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's motion is granted, Plaintiff's motion is denied, and this case is closed.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Sequential Evaluation Process

The Social Security Act (" the Act" ) defines disability as the " inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months." 42 U.S.C. § § 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act also provides that a plaintiff shall be determined to be under a disability only if any impairments are of such severity that a plaintiff is not only unable to do previous work but cannot, considering plaintiff's age, education and work experiences, engage in any other substantial work which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § § 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B). Thus, the definition of disability consists of both medical and vocational components. Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001).

The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520, 416.920. Step one determines if the person is engaged in substantial gainful activities. If so, benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If not, the decision maker proceeds to step two, which determines whether plaintiff has a medially ...


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