United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT
MOTION AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT
SALVADOR MENDOZA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Billy Dallman appeals the Administrative Law Judge's
(ALJ) denial of his application for supplemental security
income. ECF No. 3. Plaintiff contends the Court should
reverse the ALJ's decision because the ALJ improperly (1)
found that Dallman's back pain did not constitute a
severe impairment, (2) rejected Dallman's testimony
concerning the severity of his symptoms, and (3) discounted
the opinion of two treatment providers. The Commissioner of
Social Security asks the Court to affirm the ALJ's
decision. After reviewing the record and relevant authority,
as set forth below, the Court finds that the ALJ applied the
proper legal standards and the ALJ's decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court
affirms the ALJ's decision and therefore denies
Plaintiff's motion and grants the Commissioner's
Statement of Facts
Billy Dallman was born on December 26, 1974, and was 37 years
old at the time he filed his claim. AR 63. At the time he
filed his claim, Dallman was a resident of Ellensburg,
Washington, where he lived with his wife and three children.
AR 42. Dallman has not worked consistently since 2001. AR
189, 223. He alleges that he has been unable to work since
that time because of bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress
disorder, back injuries, knee injuries, and thyroid disorder.
AR 19, 63, 188.
has a long history of physical and mental conditions. Dallman
reported significant childhood abuse and trauma, and also
drug and alcohol use beginning at a very young age. AR
326-27. Dallman did not complete high school and does not
have a GED. AR 47. Dallman reports having knee pain since
surgery in the early 1990s that has worsened over time, and
back pain since an injury in 2002. AR 204, 214, 414-15, 428.
Dallman was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in January 2006.
AR 413. Dallman has been hospitalized for psychiatric illness
on two occasions: In July 2009, after being found naked on
his neighbor's deck and punching and choking his
girlfriend in response to command auditory hallucinations;
and in May 2012, after making claims to a mental health
professional that, among other things, he was god, he was
2012 years, and he would take care of all of the evil in the
world. AR 247. At discharge in May 2012, he was diagnosed
with severe bipolar disorder with psychotic features. AR 245.
At the time of this application Dallman was taking a number
of medications including: Cogentin, for side effects from
anti-psychotic medications; Depakote, for depression and
bi-polar disorder; Hydrocodone, for pain; Levoxyl, because
his thyroid was removed; Meloxicam, for arthritis and joint
pain; Methocaramol, for muscle spasms; and Risperdal, for
bi-polar disorder. AR 218-19.
reports that on a day-to-day basis, he drinks coffee, takes
care of his children, and eats meals. AR 205. He reports
requiring reminders to do routine personal care and take his
medications. AR 206. He does light housework and occasionally
makes simple meals. AR 206. Dallman attends counseling once
per week. AR 209. Dallman asserts that the pain in his back
and knees make sitting, standing and lifting difficult, and
that his mental disorders cause him to be anxious and avoid
social interactions. AR 204, 209.
11, 2012, Dallman filed an application for supplemental
security income, alleging an inability to work since January
2002 as a result of bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress
disorder, back injury, knee injury, and thyroid disorder. AR
19, 171. This application was denied on July 17, 2012, and
denied on reconsideration on October 31, 2012. AR 19, 74, 88.
Dallman filed a request for a hearing on December 6, 2012. AR
19. A hearing occurred before an ALJ on April 23, 2014. AR
19. On June 20, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Dallman not disabled and denying his claim for supplemental
security income. AR 19-31. On August 20, 2014, Dallman
requested review by the Social Security Administration
Appeals Council, asserting that the ALJ's decision was
not supported by substantial evidence, the decision contained
legal errors, and the ALJ's credibility determination was
legally insufficient. AR 14. The Council denied Dallman's
request on September 17, 2014. AR 1-5. Dallman filed this
action on November 17, 2015. ECF No. 1.
“disability” is defined 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), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The decision-maker uses a
five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether
a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
one assesses whether the claimant is engaged in substantial
gainful activities. If he is, benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If he is not, the
decision-maker proceeds to step two.
two assesses whether the claimant has a medically severe
impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If the claimant does
not, the disability claim is denied. If the claimant does,
the evaluation proceeds to the third step.
three compares the claimant's impairment with a number of
listed impairments acknowledged by the Commissioner to be so
severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 404 Subpt. P App. 1, 416.920(d). If
the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments,
the claimant is conclusively ...