United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
MARY ALICE THEILER, Chief Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Ramon Menchaca proceeds through counsel in his appeal of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) after a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Having considered the ALJ's decision, the administrative record (AR), and all memoranda of record, the Court recommends that this matter be AFFIRMED.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1986. He attended high school until the 9th grade and received his General Equivalency Degree in 2010. (AR 221, 473.) Plaintiff has past relevant work as a fast food worker and hand packer. (AR 33.)
Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on April 5, 2012, alleging disability beginning January 1, 2011. (AR 21, 190-98.) His application was denied at the initial level and on reconsideration. (AR 79-86, 90-96.)
On May 16, 2013, ALJ Stephanie Martz held a hearing, taking testimony from a vocational expert. (AR 41-53.) Plaintiff's attorney was present at the hearing; however, plaintiff failed to appear. (AR 41-53.) The ALJ found that plaintiff did not show good cause for missing his hearing, and on June 13, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. (AR 18-40.)
Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on October 16, 2013 (AR 1-6), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to this Court.
The Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
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 April 5, 2012, the application date. At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found severe plaintiff's anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, intermittent explosive disorder vs. impulse control disorder, learning disorder, status post thumb fracture, lumbar spondylosis, and lumbar degenerative disc disease. Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found that 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 demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The ALJ found plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b), except that he could frequently climb ramps and stairs and occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. Plaintiff was found able to frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl, and occasionally finger with his right dominant hand and that he must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards. Plaintiff was also found able to understand, remember, and carryout simple routine tasks with occasional contact with coworkers and superficial, incidental interaction with the general public. With that assessment, the ALJ found plaintiff unable to perform his past relevant work as a fast food worker and hand packer.
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. The ALJ concluded, with the assistance of the VE, that plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in significant levels in the national economy, such as work as a bakery worker, motel cleaner, shipping and receiving weigher, and base filler. The ALJ, therefore, concluded plaintiff was not disabled at any time from the April 5, 2012 application date through the date of the decision.
This Court's review of the ALJ's 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, ...