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Valencia v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

August 8, 2014

WILLIAM EMILIO VALENCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL

MARY ALICE THEILER, Chief Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff William Emilio Valencia proceeds through counsel in his 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, the Court recommends this matter be AFFIRMED.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1979.[1] He completed high school and previously worked as a sales clerk, shipping and receiving clerk, industrial truck operator, and construction worker. (AR 30-31, 40.)

Plaintiff filed his DIB application in October 2012, alleging disability beginning November 1, 2008. (AR 164-65.) Plaintiff remained insured for DIB through December 3, 2010 and, therefore, was required to establish disability on or prior to that "date last insured" (DLI). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.131, 404.321. His application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and he timely requested a hearing.

On February 14, 2012, ALJ M.J. Adams held a hearing, taking testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR 35-81.) On March 22, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. (AR 22-31.)

Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied review on December 11, 2013 (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 November 1, 2008 onset date through the DLI. At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's obesity and a seizure 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 had the RFC to lift and carry fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently, stand and/or walk at least six hours in an eight-hour workday, and sit for at least six hours in an eight-hour workday. He further found plaintiff can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolding, and should avoid even moderate exposure to heights or hazardous machinery. With that RFC, and with the assistance of the VE, the ALJ concluded that, through the DLI, plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a sales clerk or as a shipping and receiving clerk.

If a claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant work or has no 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 work that exists in significant levels in the national economy. Finding plaintiff not disabled at step four, the ALJ did not proceed to step five. The ALJ concluded plaintiff was not disabled at any time from the onset date through the date of the decision.

This Court's review of the final decision is limited to whether the decision is in accordance with the law and the findings supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th Cir. 1993). Substantial evidence means more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). If there is more than one rational interpretation, ...


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