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Dipietro v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 5, 2014

KATE M. DiPIETRO Petitioner,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN[1], Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Respondent.




Before the Court is Petitioner Kate M. DiPietro's Petition for Review of the Respondent's denial of social security benefits, filed October 9, 2012. (Dkt. 3.) The Court has reviewed the Petition for Review and the Answer, the parties' memoranda, and the administrative record, and for the reasons that follow, will affirm the decision of the Commissioner.


Petitioner filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on August 19, 2009, claiming depression, bipolar illness, and borderline personality disorder. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and a hearing was held on March 17, 2011, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Lloyd E. Hartford. After hearing testimony from Petitioner, medical expert Dr. Thomas E. Atkin, vocational expert Anne F. Aastum, and Petitioner's mother, Mary DiPietro, ALJ Hartford issued a decision on May 16, 2011, finding Petitioner not disabled. Petitioner timely requested review by the Appeals Council, which denied her request for review on September 15, 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 August of 1974. At the time of the hearing, Petitioner was thirty-four years of age. Petitioner is a college graduate and has prior work experience as a receptionist, help desk technician, customer care representative, and claims processor.


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 March 6, 2009. At step two, it must be determined whether the claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found Petitioner's affective disorder, anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, and history of migraines 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 11.00 (neurological), 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.

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.

At this step, the ALJ determined that Petitioner retained the RFC to perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1576(c) and 416.967(c). As part of this determination, the ALJ found Petitioner has the ability to sustain work activity that is simple and repetitive in nature with mental work-related limitations; work that involves superficial contact with the general public, co-workers, and supervisors; and work that is low stress without requirements to perform multiple tasks or follow complex directions. Based on these findings, the ALJ found Petitioner not disabled.


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 ...

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