United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Johnston United States Magistrate Judge.
Debra Ann Mellin (Mellin) brought this action to obtain
judicial review of the final decision of the Acting
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner), denying her application for disability and
disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433.
Court has jurisdiction over this action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Venue is proper given that Mellin resides in
Cascade County, Montana. 29 U.S.C. § 1391(e)(1); L.R.
1.2(c)(3). The parties have consented to have the undersigned
conduct all proceedings in this matter and enter judgment.
filed her application for disability benefits on March 31,
2011. (Doc. 3 at 408-414). Mellin alleged a disability onset
date of August 6, 2010. (Doc. 3 at 408). Mellin alleged that
she became disabled due to injuries to her left ankle and
left shoulder, depression, anxiety, and human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV). (Doc. 3 at 492). Mellin is 59
years old. (Doc. 3 at 408). Mellin has a high school
education. (Doc. 3 at 81). Mellin has also attended college
for two years. Id. Mellin has past work experience
as a general office clerk from 2007 through August 2010.
(Doc. 3 at 27).
administrative law judge (ALJ) conducted a hearing on
Mellin's application for social security benefits on
October 25, 2012. (Doc. 3 at 126-158). The ALJ issued her
decision on December 5, 2012. (Doc. 3 at 185-194). The ALJ
determined that Mellin did not qualify for disability or
disability insurance benefits. (Doc. 3 at 194).
requested that the Social Security Administration
(Administration) review the ALJ's decision. The
Administration granted Mellin's request. The
Administration remanded the case on July 7, 2014. (Doc. 3 at
199-202). The Administration directed the ALJ to address
multiple errors. Id.
conducted a second hearing on Mellin's application for
social security benefits on March 3, 2015. (Doc. 3 at
72-125). The ALJ issued his decision on April 13, 2015. (Doc.
3 at 207-220). The ALJ determined the Mellin was not
disabled. (Doc. 3 at 220). Mellin requested that the
Administration review the ALJ's decision. The
Administration granted Mellin's request. The
Administration determined that a remand was appropriate given
that the ALJ had incorrectly stated the date that Mellin was
last insured for disability benefits. (Doc. 3 at 229-231).
conducted a third hearing on Mellin's application for
social security benefits on May 9, 2017. (Doc. 3 at 39-71).
The ALJ issued his decision on June 1, 2017. (Doc. 3 at
15-29). The ALJ determined that Mellin had a number of severe
impairments. (Doc. 3 at 17). The ALJ determined that Mellin
was not disabled despite her impairments. The ALJ concluded
that Mellin possessed the residual functional capacity to
perform her past relevant work as a general office clerk, and
she could also work as an order clerk or appointment clerk.
(Doc. 3 at 26, 28).
requested that the Administration review the ALJ's
decision. The Administration denied Mellin's request.
(Doc. 3 at 1-3). The Administration's denial made the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
filed the present action on March 9, 2018. (Doc. 1). The
matter has been fully briefed. (Docs. 10, 11, 12). The Court
is prepared to rule.
Court's review in this matter is limited. The Court may
set aside the Commissioner's decision only where the
decision is not supported by substantial evidence or where
the decision is based on legal error. Bayliss v.
Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005).
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). Substantial evidence has also been described
as “more than a mere scintilla” but “less
than a preponderance.” Desrosiers v. Sec. of Health
and Human Services, 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988).
claimant is disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act
if the claimant demonstrates by a preponderance of the
evidence that (1) the claimant has a “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;” and (2) the impairment or impairments
are of such severity that, considering the claimant's
age, education, and work experience, the claimant is not only
unable to perform previous work but also cannot “engage
in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in
the national economy.” Schneider v. Comm'r of
the Soc. Sec. Admin., 223 F.3d 968, 974 (9th Cir. 2000)
(citing 42 U.S.C. §1382(a)(3)(A), (B)).
Social Security Administration regulations provide a
five-step sequential evaluation process for determining
whether a claimant is disabled. Bustamante v.
Massanari, 262 F.3d 949, 953-954 (9th Cir. 2001); 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The claimant bears the
burden of proof under steps one through four.
Bustamante, 262 F.3d at 954. The Commissioner bears
the burden of proof under step five. Id. The five
steps of the inquiry are:
1. Is the claimant presently working in a substantially
gainful activity? If so, the claimant is not disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act. If not, proceed to
step two. See 20 ...