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Wilson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

May 10, 2017

DARRELL THOMAS WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, INTER ALIA

          LONNY R. SUKO SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT are the Plaintiff's Motion For Summary Judgment (ECF No. 13) and the Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14).

         JURISDICTION

         Darrell Thomas Wilson, Plaintiff, applied for Title XVI Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI) on August 9, 2012. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing which was held on January 23, 2015 before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) R.J. Payne. Plaintiff testified at the hearing, as did Medical Expert (ME), Margaret Moore, Ph.D.. A supplemental hearing was held on May 13, 2015 at which Vocational Expert (VE) Daniel McKinney testified. On June 10, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding the Plaintiff not disabled. The Appeals Council denied a request for review of the ALJ's decision, making that decision the Commissioner's final decision subject to judicial review. The Commissioner's final 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 hearings, Plaintiff was 53 years old. He has past relevant work experience as a general clerk, survey worker, sanitor[1] and food deliverer. At the hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged disability onset date to August 10, 2012. On that date, he was 50 years old.

         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).

         ISSUE

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in discrediting his testimony about his symptoms and in discounting the opinions of Dr. Mabee.

         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. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act also provides that a claimant shall be determined to be under a disability only if his impairments are of such severity that the claimant is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education and work experiences, engage in any other substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy. Id.

         The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42, 107 S.Ct. 2287 (1987). Step one determines if he is engaged in substantial gainful activities. If he is, benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). If he is not, the decision-maker proceeds to step two, which determines whether the claimant has a medically severe impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments, the disability claim is denied. If the impairment is severe, the evaluation proceeds to the third step, which 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. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii); 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpart P, App. 1. If the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be disabled. If the impairment is not one conclusively presumed to be disabling, the evaluation proceeds to the fourth step which determines whether the impairment prevents the claimant from performing work he has performed in the past. If the ...


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