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Young v. Colvin

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

February 13, 2017

DUSTIN A. YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Dustin A. Young's objections (Dkt. No. 15) in response to the Report and Recommendation filed by the Honorable James P. Donohue, United States Chief Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 14). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby OVERRULES the objections and ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income in August 2013, citing injuries to his head, knee, and neck, edema in his right leg, depression, pain disorder without agoraphobia, and antisocial personality disorder. Administrative Record (AR) 203-14, 229. The Social Security Commissioner denied both Plaintiff's original application and his request for reconsideration. AR 1-6, 19-30.

         On administrative appeal, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that Plaintiff was not disabled after applying the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) five-step sequential evaluation method detailed by Judge Donohue in his Report and Recommendation. (Dkt. No. 14 at 3-4.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff had other reasonable opportunities to earn income, despite his several severe disabilities. AR 21-29. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff's knee pain, toe pain, and edema did not qualify as severe injuries. Id. The ALJ further discounted part of Plaintiff's witness Dr. Hopfenbek's medical evaluation after finding that Dr. Hopfenbek did not sufficiently explain some of his conclusions. Id. at 21-29, 317-20.

         Plaintiff appealed the administrative court's findings. (Dkt. No. 3.) Specifically, Plaintiff claims the ALJ erred by: (1) finding that Plaintiff's knee and toe pain did not severely restrict his ability to work, (2) discounting part of Dr. James Hopfenbek's report, and (3) using erroneous reasoning between Steps Three and Five of the IRS's evaluation process. (Dkt. No. 11 at 1-2.) Judge Donohue recommended that this Court affirm the ALJ's ruling and deny the appeal. (Dkt. No. 14 at 1.) Plaintiff objected to Judge Donohue's recommendation. (Dkt. No. 15.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A district judge reviews objections to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation de novo. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions. Id.

         A district court may disturb the Commissioner's decision only when the ALJ's findings affirming that decision are not supported by substantial evidence or are based on legal error. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 (9th Cir. 2005). The Court evaluates (1) if there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's findings and (2) if the ALJ applied the correct legal standards. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Benton ex rel. Benton v. Barnhart, 331 F.3d 1030, 1035 (9th Cir. 2003). Substantial evidence is “relevant evidence that, considering the entire record, a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Lewis v. Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 509 (9th Cir. 2001). When the evidence before an ALJ is open to multiple rational interpretations, the Court must defer to the ALJ's decision. Batson v. Comm'r of Social Security Administration, 359 F.3d 1190, 1196 (9th Cir. 2004).

         B. Plaintiff's Impairments

         Plaintiff objects to Judge Donohue's finding that the ALJ did not err by finding that Plaintiff's knee and toe pain were not severe impairments. (Dkt. No. 15 at 9.) To be severe, Plaintiff must make a threshold showing that his impairment significantly limited his ability to perform basic work activities for at least 12 months. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 145 (1987); 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). Here, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's knee and toe pain did not qualify because he only proved that those conditions existed for 5 and 6 months, respectively. (See Dkt. No. 11 at 12.) Plaintiff's objection does not point to any additional facts showing that the pain lasted for at least 12 months. (See Dkt. No. 15 at 10-11.) Accordingly, this Court rejects Plaintiff's argument and finds that these determinations are supported by substantial evidence.

         Plaintiff next objects to Judge Donohue's recommendation that the ALJ did not err by finding that Plaintiff's edema-swelling-was not a severe impairment. (Dkt. No. 15 at 9.) Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not establish that his edema significantly limited his ability to work. (Dkt. No. 14 at 7.) In response, Plaintiff argues that (1) his doctor recommended he use the elevator more frequently, (2) the same doctor recommended he sleep lower to the ground, and (3) his mother testified that he was unable to work in part because of “swelling in his legs and ankles.” (Dkt. No. 15 at 10.) These examples are not enough to make the ALJ's finding irrational or contrary to the ...


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