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Ellison v. Colvin

United States District Court, Eastern District of Washington

November 3, 2014

KRISTI LEE ELLISON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

For Kristi Lee Ellison, Plaintiff: David L Lybbert, LEAD ATTORNEY, Calbom & Schwab PSC, Moses Lake, WA.

For Carolyn W Colvin, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Pamela Jean DeRusha, LEAD ATTORNEY, U S Attorney's Office - SPO, Spokane, WA; Daphne Banay, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel, Seattle, WA.

DECISION AND ORDER

VICTOR E. BIANCHINI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

I. INTRODUCTION

In August of 2010, Plaintiff Kristi Lee Ellison applied for Supplemental Security Income (" SSI") benefits under the Social Security Act. The Commissioner of Social Security denied the application.

Plaintiff, represented by Cohen & Schwab, P.S.C., David L. Lybbert, 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. 5).

On June 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. 18).

II. BACKGROUND

The procedural history may be summarized as follows:

On August 27, 2010, Plaintiff applied for SSI benefits, alleging disability beginning May 1, 2003. (T at 142-48).[1] The application was denied initially and Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ"). On May 10, 2012, a hearing was held before ALJ Donna W. Shipps. (T at 49). Plaintiff appeared with her attorney and testified. (T at 56-85). The ALJ also received testimony from Thomas A. Polsin, a vocational expert. (T at 86-99).

On May 25, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision denying the application for benefits and finding that Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits under the Social Security Act. (T at 20-39). The ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision on August 22, 2013, when the Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (T at 1-7).

On September 18, 2013, 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. 8). The Commissioner interposed an Answer on January 21, 2014. (Docket No. 14).

Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on May 21, 2014. (Docket No. 17). The Commissioner moved for summary judgment on June 30, 2014. (Docket No. 19). Plaintiff filed a reply brief on July 14, 2014. (Docket No. 20).

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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