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Johnson-Moore v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Idaho

February 12, 2014

DIANE M. JOHNSON-MOORE, Petitioner,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN[1], Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

CANDY W. DALE, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Currently pending before the Court is Petitioner Diane M. Johnson-Moore's ("Petitioner") Petition for Review of the Respondent's denial of social security benefits, filed November 28, 2012. (Dkt. 1.) The Court has reviewed the Petition for Review and the Answer, the parties' memoranda, and the administrative record ("AR"), and for the reasons that follow, will affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL HISTORY

Petitioner filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on July 16, 2009, alleging disability beginning October 8, 2008, from arthritis, mild degenerative disk disease of the cervical spine, insomnia, depression, anxiety/panic disorder, personality disorder, and substance abuse. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and a hearing was held on June 23, 2011, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Verrell Dethloff. After hearing testimony from Petitioner, ALJ Dethloff issued a decision finding Petitioner not disabled on July 12, 2011. Petitioner timely requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council for review on August 10, 2011, which request was denied on September 26, 2012.

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

Petitioner was born in January of 1967. At the time of Petitioner's alleged onset date, October 2008, Petitioner was 41 years of age. Petitioner has a high school education and two years of college. Petitioner has prior work experience as a receptionist, administrative assistant, beverage server, and residential attendant.

SEQUENTIAL PROCESS

The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is engaged in substantially gainful activity. The ALJ found Petitioner had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date, of October 8, 2008. At step two, it must be determined whether the claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found Petitioner's arthritis, mild degenerative disk disease of the cervical spine, insomnia, depression, anxiety/panic disorder, personality disorder, and substance abuse severe within the meaning of the Regulations.

Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found that Petitioner's impairments did not meet or equal the criteria for the listed impairments, specifically listings 1.02 (major dysfunction of joints or joints), 1.04 (disorders of the spine), 12.04 (affective disorder), 12.06 (anxiety-related disorders), 12.08 (personality disorders), and 12.09 (substance addiction disorders). If a claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listing, the Commissioner must assess the claimant's residual functional capacity ("RFC") and determine, at step four, whether the claimant has demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work.

The ALJ found Petitioner was not able to perform her past relevant work as a receptionist and residential attendant. If a claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate, at step five, that the claimant retains the capacity to make an adjustment to other work that exists in significant levels in the national economy, after considering the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education and work experience. The ALJ determined that Petitioner retained the RFC to perform a reduced range of medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(c) and 416.976(c). As part of this determination, the ALJ found Petitioner could lift and/or carry twenty-five pounds frequently; could lift and/or carry fifty pounds occasionally; could sit, stand, and walk six hours out of an eight-hour workday; and could only occasionally crouch, crawl and climb ladders. The ALJ relied on the Medical-Vocational Guidelines in determining Petitioner's RFC and found Petitioner retained the capacity to perform unskilled work at a medium level of demand, and was, therefore, not disabled.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Petitioner bears the burden of showing that disability benefits are proper because of the inability "to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which... has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); Rhinehart v. Fitch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th Cir. 1971). An individual will be determined to be disabled only if her physical or mental impairments are of such severity that she not only cannot do her previous work but is unable, considering her age, education, and work experience, to engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).

On review, the Court is instructed to uphold the decision of the Commissioner if the decision is supported by substantial evidence and is not the product of legal error. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Universal Camera Corp. v. Nat'l Labor Relations Bd., 340 U.S. 474 (1951); Meanel v. Apfel, 172 F.3d 1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999) (as amended); DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). It is more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance, Jamerson ...


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