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Berens v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

December 5, 2014

LESLIE A. BERENS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

For Leslie A. Berens, Plaintiff: Linda Worthington, SCHROETER GOLDMARK & BENDER, SEATTLE, WA.

For Carolyn W Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Kerry Jane Keefe, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE (SEA), SEATTLE, WA; Diana Andsager, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, SEATTLE, WA.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL

Mary Alice Theiler, Chief United States Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Leslie A. Berens proceeds through counsel in her appeal of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) after a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Having considered the ALJ's decision, the administrative record (AR), and all memoranda of record, the Court recommends this matter be REMANDED for further proceedings.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1964.[1] She has a high school education. She has past relevant work as a receptionist, hair stylist, and bookkeeper. (AR 20.)

Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on December 21, 2010, alleging disability beginning May 13, 2010. She is insured for DIB through March 31, 2012. Plaintiff's application was denied at the initial level and on reconsideration, and she timely requested a hearing.

On July 26, 2012, ALJ Laura Valente held a hearing, taking testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert. (AR 27-65.) On November 2, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled from May 13, 2010 through the date last insured. (AR 28-66.)

Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on January 17, 2014 (AR 1-4), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to this Court.

JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

DISCUSSION

The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520, 416.920 (2000). At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is gainfully employed. The ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's carpal tunnel syndrome status post release in February 2011, cognitive disorder, affective disorder, and anxiety disorder severe. Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the criteria of a listed impairment.

If a claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listing, the Commissioner must assess residual functional capacity (RFC) and determine at step four whether the claimant has demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The ALJ found plaintiff able to lift and/or carry up to twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently, stand and/or walk about six hours in an eight-hour workday, and sit up to six hours in an eight-hour workday. Plaintiff can perform all postural activities without limitation, and frequently reach overhead with the right upper extremity. Plaintiff has sufficient concentration to understand, remember, and carry out simple, repetitive tasks. She can maintain concentration in two-hour increments with usual and customary breaks, throughout an eight-hour day. Plaintiff can work in proximity to co-workers, but not in coordination with them. With these restrictions, plaintiff was found able to work at a consistent pace with usual and customary breaks throughout an eight-hour day. She ...


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