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Acosta v. Berryhill

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

March 24, 2017

DARLENE ACOSTA, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, [1]Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION

          THOMAS S. ZILLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Darlene Acosta seeks review of the denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. Ms. Acosta contends the ALJ erred in “(1) failing to develop the record given the lack of any functional assessments completed by treating or examining sources and (2) finding that [Mr. Acosta's] … allegations were not fully credible.” Dkt. 12 at 1. Ms. Acosta argues that these errors impacted the residual functional capacity (RFC) determination and the ALJ's findings at step four and five of the sequential evaluation process. Id. Ms. Acosta contends this case should be remanded for further administrative proceedings. Dkt. 12 at 2, 17. As discussed below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final decision and DISMISSES the case with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         On July 29, 2011, Ms. Acosta applied for benefits, alleging disability as of December 24, 2009. Tr. 703, 199-206. Ms. Acosta's applications were denied initially and on reconsideration and, after a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge [ALJ] issued an unfavorable decision on December 12, 2012. Tr. 19-30, 703. The Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1-4, 703. By order dated October 16, 2014, the district court vacated and remanded the case directing the ALJ to reevaluate the opinion of David Widlan, Ph.D., reassess the residual functional capacity (RFC), and take additional vocational expert testimony as necessary. Tr. 703, 856-68. After the ALJ conducted a second hearing on November 5, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision on March 7, 2016, again finding Ms. Acosta not disabled. Tr. 703-725.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [2] the ALJ found:
Step one: Ms. Acosta has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 24, 2009, the alleged onset date.
Step two: Ms. Acosta has the following severe impairments: degenerative disk disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, ankle fracture, headaches, depression, personality disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and moderate obesity.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[3]
Residual Functional Capacity: Ms. Acosta can perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) including the following: lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand or walk for approximately six hours and sit for approximately six hours per eight hour workday with normal breaks; occasionally climb ramps or stairs, but never ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; frequently handle and finger; occasionally reach overhead; superficial interaction with co-workers with no requirement for team work or collaborative problem solving; occasional interaction with supervisors, as she could respond appropriately to supervisors; and incidental interaction with the public.
Step four: Ms. Acosta can perform past relevant work and, as such, is not disabled.
Step five: With respect to the period prior to Ms. Acosta's turning 55 in 2013, the ALJ makes the alternative finding that there were also jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Ms. Acosta could perform. As such, she was not disabled during that period on this basis as well.

Tr. 703-725. Ms. Acosta now seeks judicial review of the ALJ's March 7, ...


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