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Sharp v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

May 15, 2014

PEGGY LEE SHARP, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINITFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT FOR REMAND; DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

ROBERT H. WHALEY, District Judge.

Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 17, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 20. Plaintiff is represented by Rebecca Mary Coufal. Defendant is represented by Assistant United States Attorney Pamela DeRusha and Special Assistant United States Attorney Daphne Banay.

Plaintiff brings this action seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Commissioner's final decision, which denied her application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, and denies Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. Jurisdiction and Procedural History

On August 10, 2009, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for Title II disability insurance benefits (DIB), and an application for Title XVI supplemental security income (SSI). Plaintiff alleged disability beginning on January 1, 2007.

Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. She timely requested a hearing. On August 19, 2010, Plaintiff appeared at a hearing in Spokane, Washington before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) R. J. Payne. Dr. Daniel Wiseman, an impartial medical expert also appeared at the hearing. Plaintiff was represented by attorney Vijay Venkataraman.

On September 2, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff timely requested review by the Appeals Council, which denied her request for review on October 26, 2012. The Appeals Council's denial of review makes the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. §405(h).

Plaintiff filed a timely appeal with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington on June 6, 2012. The instant matter is before this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

II. 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). A claimant is disabled only if her impairments are of such severity that the claimant is not only unable to do his previous work, but cannot, considering claimant's age, education and work experiences, engage in any other substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).

The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), 416.920; Lounsburry v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006).

Step 1: Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activities? 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). Substantial gainful activity is work done for pay and requires compensation above the statutory minimum. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1574, 416.972; Keyes v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1053, 1057 (9th Cir. 1990). If the claimant is engaged in substantial activity, benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571, 416.920(b). If she is not, the ALJ proceeds to step two.

Step 2: Does the claimant have a medically-severe impairment or combination of impairments? 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments, the disability claim is denied. A severe impairment is one that lasted or must be expected to last for at least 12 months and must be proven through objective medical evidence. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1508-09, 416.908-09. If the impairment is severe, the evaluation proceeds to the step three.

Step 3: Does the claimant's impairment meet or equal one of the listed impairments acknowledged by the Commissioner to be so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity? 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d); 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpt. P. App. 1 ("the Listings"). If the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be disabled. Id. If the impairment is not one conclusively presumed to be disabling, the evaluation proceeds to the step four.

Step 4: Does the impairment prevent the claimant from performing work she has performed in the past? 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If the claimant is able to perform her previous work, she is not disabled. Id. If the claimant cannot perform this work, the ALJ proceeds to the final step five.

Step 5: Is the claimant able to perform other work in the national economy in view of her age, education, and work experience? 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f).

The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four as detailed above. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d at 1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2012). If the analysis proceeds to step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish that: (1) the claimant is capable of performing other work; and (2) such work "exists in significant numbers in the national economy." 20 ...


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