United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
WM. FREMMING NIELSEN, Senior District Judge.
Before the Court are cross-Motions for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. 18 and 19). Attorney Dana Madsen represents Plaintiff. Special Assistant United States Attorney Franco Becia represents Defendant. The Court has reviewed the administrative record and briefs filed by the parties and is fully informed.
Plaintiff protectively applied for child's insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits on October 14, 2010, alleging disability beginning on September 1, 2010. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration.
A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Marie Palachuk on December 13, 2011. At the hearing, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, testified as did R. Thomas McKnight, Ph.D., a psychological expert, and Trevor Duncan, a vocational expert (VE). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this final decision is appealable to the district court. Plaintiff sought judicial review on May 13, 2013.
The facts of the case are set forth in detail in the transcript of the proceedings and are briefly summarized here. Plaintiff was 20 years old at the time of the hearing. (Tr. at 62.) Plaintiff graduated from high school and has never worked. (Tr. at 63.) Plaintiff claims to suffer from a variety of physical and mental impairments. Plaintiff claims to suffer pain in her back, rib cage, and knees, all of which limit her range of motion. (Tr. at 63-65.) Plaintiff appears to trace these injuries back to an incident when she was 8 weeks old and her abusive father broke several of her bones. (Tr. at 63.) Plaintiff stated that she also suffers from depression, anxiety, and anger, for which she has sought counseling. (Tr. at 65.) Plaintiff has trouble sitting and standing for prolonged periods of time (Tr. at 64-65). Despite her impairments, Plaintiff can use public transportation, (Tr. at 64), drive a car (Tr. at 66), and carry out household chores for 5-10 minutes at a time (Tr. at 66). Plaintiff reports spending much of her time "sit[ting] around" or "hang[ing] out with friend[s]." (Tr. at 67.) Plaintiff is also in the process of writing a book. (Tr. at 67.)
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has established a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a); see Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987). In steps one through four, the burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish a prima facie case of entitlement to disability benefits. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999). This burden is met once a claimant establishes that a physical or mental impairment prevents him from engaging in his previous occupation. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). If a claimant cannot do his past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to step five, and the burden shifts to the SSA to show that (1) the claimant can make an adjustment to other work; and (2) specific jobs exist in the national economy which claimant can perform. Batson v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193-94 (9th 2004). If a claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work in the national economy, a finding of "disabled" is made. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(I-v), 416.920(a)(4)(I-v).
A person is entitled to disabled child's insurance benefits if the claimant is age 18 or older and has a disability that began before attaining age 22. 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(5).
Regarding Plaintiff's eligibility for child's insurance benefits, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was born on August 9, 1991 and had not attained age 22 as of September 1, 2010, the alleged onset date.
At step one of the sequential process, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not engage is substantial gainful activity since September 10, 2010, the alleged onset date.
At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: language related learning disorder.
At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled any of the listed impairments described at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).
At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels subject to some limitations, including only superficial (non-collaborative) interactions with the general public and coworkers. The ALJ further found that Plaintiff had no past relevant work.
At step five, the ALJ concluded that, given Plaintiff's age, education, and RFC, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform, including ...