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Patterson v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

April 27, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


JOHN T. RODGERS, Magistrate Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT are cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 14, 16. Attorney Joseph Linehan represents Shawn D. Patterson (Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney Daphne Banay represents the Commissioner of Social Security (Defendant). The parties have consented to proceed before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 7. After reviewing the administrative record and briefs filed by the parties, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.


Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on June 8, 2010, alleging disability since October 30, 2004, due to depression, anxiety, chronic pain and insomnia. Tr. 165-168, 181. Plaintiff indicates, however, that he stopped working because of his condition on April 26, 2008. Tr. 181. Nevertheless, the relevant period in question begins March 17, 2010, one day after Plaintiff's previously filed claim for disability benefits was denied at the hearing level. Tr. 18.

The DIB application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Caroline Siderius held a hearing on October 11, 2012, Tr. 34-81, and issued an unfavorable decision on October 22, 2012, Tr. 18-29. The Appeals Council denied review on April 23, 2014. Tr. 1-6. The ALJ's October 2012 decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, which is appealable to the district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g). Plaintiff filed this action for judicial review on June 12, 2014. ECF No. 1, 4.


The facts of the case are set forth in the administrative hearing transcript, the ALJ's decision, and the briefs of the parties. They are only briefly summarized here.

Plaintiff was born on October 2, 1972, and was 37 years old on the March 17, 2010, relevant period start date. Tr. 40. Plaintiff is a high school graduate and completed one year of college in 1999. Tr. 182. He last worked in 2008. Tr. 40. Plaintiff reported he stopped working because of his condition. Tr. 181.

At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff described his bilateral thoracic outlet syndrome as affecting the nerves in his arms: running down the back of his neck, through his shoulders, into his arms and ending in the pinky and ring fingers in both of his hands. Tr. 42. He testified the syndrome made it difficult to squeeze with his hands and lift, Tr. 43, and that, since 2005, using vibrating machinery causes his hands to swell and throb, Tr. 45. Plaintiff indicated his grip strength has gotten considerably worse over time. Tr. 46. He stated he is able to lift his arms overhead, but it will quickly cause his fingers to go numb. Tr. 55. He also stated that symptoms from the syndrome made sleep difficult, and he was only able to sleep maybe three or four hours each night. Tr. 43.

Plaintiff testified he also experiences migraine headaches "at least three days a week" which can last all day. Tr. 53-54. He indicated he also has problems with concentration and short and long term memory. Tr. 58.

Plaintiff testified his two grandchildren, ages two and one, currently lived with him, and he was able to pick them up and have them sit on his lap for a few minutes. Tr. 60, 64. However, he was not able to get down on the ground and play with the grandchildren. Tr. 60. Plaintiff stated he spends his days picking up after the children, keeping an eye on the children and paying the bills. Tr. 48. He indicated he would also mow the lawn, vacuum, sweep the floor, and cook with the help of his teenage children, and would putter in his shop. Tr. 50-51, 59. He stated he can sit in a chair for 10 to 15 minutes before needing to change positions, stand in one place for only five minutes at a time, and walk about half a mile in one stretch. Tr. 56, 60.

With respect to medication, Plaintiff stated he is "anti-drugs" and did not want to take hydrocodone because of the side effects. Tr. 53. He was taking medical marijuana in pill form at the time of the administrative hearing. Tr. 52-53.


The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). The Court reviews the ALJ's determinations of law de novo, deferring to a reasonable interpretation of the statutes. McNatt v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1084, 1087 (9th Cir. 2000). The decision of the ALJ may be reversed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based on legal error. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is defined as being more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Id. at 1098. Put another way, 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). If the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1097; Morgan v. Commissioner of Social Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). Nevertheless, 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 ...

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