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Fritts v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

November 13, 2014

TAMMY JO FRITTS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT, INTER ALIA

LONNY R. SUKO, Senior District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT are the Plaintiff's Motion For Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12) and the Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14).

JURISDICTION

Tammy Jo Fritts, Plaintiff, applied for Title XVI Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI) on July 13, 2010, and for Title II Widow's Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on May 10, 2012. The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing and a hearing was held on June 26, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Caroline Siderius. Plaintiff, represented by counsel, testified at the hearing as did Thomas Polsin, a Vocational Expert (VE). On July 23, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. The Appeals Council denied a request for review and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. This decision is appealable to district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

STATEMENT OF FACTS

The facts have been presented in the administrative transcript, the ALJ's decision, the Plaintiff's and Defendant's briefs, and will only be summarized here. At the time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was 50 years old. She has a high school education and no past relevant work experience. Plaintiff alleges disability since January 1, 1997.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

"The [Commissioner's] determination that a claimant is not disabled will be upheld if the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence...." Delgado v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 570, 572 (9th Cir. 1983). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, Sorenson v. Weinberger, 514 F.2d 1112, 1119 n.10 (9th Cir. 1975), but less than a preponderance. McAllister v. Sullivan, 888 F.2d 599, 601-602 (9th Cir. 1989); Desrosiers v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988). "It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420 (1971). "[S]uch inferences and conclusions as the [Commissioner] may reasonably draw from the evidence" will also be upheld. Beane v. Richardson, 457 F.2d 758, 759 (9th Cir. 1972); Mark v. Celebrezze, 348 F.2d 289, 293 (9th Cir. 1965). On review, the court considers the record as a whole, not just the evidence supporting the decision of the Commissioner. Weetman v. Sullivan, 877 F.2d 20, 22 (9th Cir. 1989); Thompson v. Schweiker, 665 F.2d 936, 939 (9th Cir. 1982).

It is the role of the trier of fact, not this court to resolve conflicts in evidence. Richardson, 402 U.S. at 400. If evidence supports more than one rational interpretation, the court must uphold the decision of the ALJ. Allen v. Heckler, 749 F.2d 577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984).

A decision supported by substantial evidence will still be set aside if the proper legal standards were not applied in weighing the evidence and making the decision. Brawner v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 839 F.2d 432, 433 (9th Cir. 1987).

ISSUES

Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred: 1) by failing to find that Plaintiff's left hand condition, depression and anxiety are severe impairments; 2) in disregarding the opinions of Plaintiff's providers and consultative examiners; 3) in assessing Plaintiff's physical and mental residual functional capacities; 4) in failing to pose a proper hypothetical to the VE; and 5) in assessing Plaintiff's credibility.

DISCUSSION

SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS

The Social Security Act defines "disability" as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any 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." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) and 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act also provides that a claimant shall be determined to be under a disability only if her impairments are of such severity that the claimant is not only unable to do her previous work but ...


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