United States District Court, W.D. Washington
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge
Michael Kallenbach proceeds through counsel in his appeal of
a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied
Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(DIB) after a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ). Having considered the ALJ's decision, the
administrative record (AR), and all memoranda of record, this
matter is AFFIRMED.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1968. He has a GED and an associate's
degree in auto and diesel mechanics, and previously worked as
an auto mechanic. (AR 38-39, 201.)
protectively applied for DIB in November 2013. (AR 168-71.)
That application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, and Plaintiff timely requested a hearing.
(AR 101-07, 109-15.)
21, 2015, ALJ James Sherry held a hearing, taking testimony
from Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR 33-78.) On
July 24, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff
not disabled. (AR 11-24.) Plaintiff timely appealed. The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
January 31, 2017 (AR 1-6), making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed this
final decision of the Commissioner to this Court.
Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation
process for determining whether a claimant is disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2000).
At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is
gainfully employed. The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since April 1, 2012, the
alleged onset date. (AR 13.) At step two, it must be
determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe
impairment. The ALJ found severe Plaintiff's cervical
spine degenerative disc disease (DDD), status post fusion
surgeries; lumbar spine DDD, status post laminectomy
surgeries; diabetes mellitus; right shoulder arthropathy;
digestive disorder; and adjustment disorder with symptoms of
depression and anxiety. (AR 13.) Step three asks whether a
claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment.
The ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet
or equal the criteria of a listed impairment. (AR 13-16.)
claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listing,
the Commissioner must assess residual functional capacity
(RFC) and determine at step four whether the claimant has
demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The
ALJ found Plaintiff capable of performing a reduced range of
light work, with the following additional limitations: he can
lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently.
He can stand/walk for six hours and sit for six hours in an
eight-hour workday. He needs to change positions between
sitting and standing for brief periods every 60 minutes. He
can occasionally balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, crawl, and
climb ramps and stairs. He cannot climb ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds. He can occasionally reach overhead with the upper
extremities. He must avoid concentrated exposure to excessive
vibration and hazards in the workplace, such as moving
machinery and unprotected heights. He can understand and
remember simple job instructions, and perform simple,
routine, repetitive tasks. He can tolerate simple
decision-making and simple changes in the work setting. He
can maintain attention and concentration for two-hour
intervals, without more than the normally expected brief
interruptions. He cannot tolerate fast-paced production
requirements. He can have superficial interaction with
supervisors, co-workers, and the public. He works best alone
or in a small group environment. (AR 17.) With that
assessment, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform his
past relevant work. (AR 22-23.)
claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant
work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate at
step five that the claimant retains the capacity to make an
adjustment to work that exists in significant levels in the
national economy. With the assistance of a VE, the ALJ found
Plaintiff capable of transitioning to other representative
occupations, including cleaner/polisher; inspector, hand
packager; and cleaner, housekeeping. (AR 23-24.)
Court's review of the ALJ's decision is limited to
whether the decision is in accordance with the law and the
findings supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole. See Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th
Cir. 1993). Substantial evidence means more than a scintilla,
but less than a preponderance; it means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d
747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). If there is more than one rational
interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision,
the Court must uphold that decision. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002).
argues the ALJ erred in (1) finding that he does not meet
Listing 1.04(a); (2) discounting his subjective statements
regarding his lumbar impairment; and (2) discounting a
statement written by Plaintiff's girlfriend, Heidi Frost.
The Commissioner argues that ...