United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION
VAN SICKLE Senior United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court based upon cross motions for
summary judgment. At issue is the validity of a decision
denying Laurie Ann Moore's claim for supplemental
security income. The plaintiff is represented by Jeffrey
Schwab. The defendant is represented by Richard M. Rodriguez.
Ann Moore was born on November 1, 1968. (TR 52.) On April 8,
2013, Ms. Moore applied for Title XVI supplemental security
income (“SSI”). 42 U.S.C. §§
1381-1383f. The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denied her initial application and her
request for reconsideration, whereupon she exercised her
right to a hearing before an administrative law judge. The
hearing took place on April 8, 2015. (TR 43.) On May 6, 2015,
the ALJ issued an order setting forth the determinations she
made at each step in the SSA's five-step sequential
evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4).
Moore accepts the findings the ALJ made at steps one through
three. That is to say, she has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since she allegedly became disabled. (Step
one.) She suffers from the severe impairments identified by
the ALJ, viz., “migraine headaches; degenerative
changes in the cervical spine; status post right hand injury
in 1993; obesity; depression; and anxiety.” (Step two.)
But her impairments are not severe enough to create a
conclusive presumption of disability. (Step three.)
at step four that Ms. Moore's objections begin. She
alleges the ALJ improperly formulated her Residual Functional
Capacity (“RFC”). The latter is the most she can
do despite her impairments. 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a)(1).
An RFC is expressed in terms of an exertional level, i.e.,
whether the claimant is capable of performing a job that is
“sedentary, light, medium, heavy, [or] very
heavy.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.967.
order to determine Ms. Moore's RFC, the ALJ had to weigh
the evidence. While the ALJ was not unsympathetic to Ms.
Moore, the ALJ did not fully credit her description of the
limitations she experiences as a result of her impairments.
(TR 32.) Nor did the ALJ fully credit the opinions of John
Arnold, Ph.D., a psychologist. Indeed, she accorded Dr.
Arnold's opinions “little weight.” (TR
Moore objects to the ALJ's decision to discount both Dr.
Arnold's opinions and her description of the limitations
she experiences. Had the ALJ given proper weight to this
evidence, says Ms. Moore, the ALJ would have found she
typically suffers 15-20 migraine headaches per month, and
when she is experiencing a migraine headache, which can last
for hours at a time, she is incapable of performing even
sedentary work. According to Ms. Moore, no employer would
retain an employee who missed as much work as she would.
did not see it that way. The ALJ found Ms. Moore presently is
capable of performing light work (step four) and “there
are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that the claimant can perform.” (Step five.) As
a result, the ALJ ruled Ms. Moore is not disabled. (TR
Moore asked the Appeals Council to review the ALJ's
unfavorable ruling. On February 9, 2016, the Council declined
to do so. With that, the ALJ's ruling became the final
decision of the Social Security Administration. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.1484(b)(2). Ms. Moore commenced this action on
April 5, 2016.
district court has the “power to enter, upon the
pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming,
modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a
rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). However, review is
limited. “The findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive[.]” Id. As a
result, the Commissioner's decision “will be
disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence
or it is based on legal error.” Green v.
Heckler, 803 F.2d 528, 529 (9th Cir.1986).
“Substantial evidence” means more than a mere
scintilla, . . . but less than a preponderance.”
Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir.1988) (internal
punctuation and citations omitted).