United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ADAM D. PYLE, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
T. RODGERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
THE COURT are cross-motions for summary judgment.
ECF No. 18, 20. Attorney Dana C. Madsen represents Adam D.
Pyle (Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney
Daniel P. Talbert represents the Commissioner of Social
Security (Defendant). The parties have consented to proceed
before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 6. After reviewing the
administrative record and briefs filed by the parties, the
Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment and DENIES Plaintiffs
Motion for Summary Judgment.
received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits as a
child. Tr. 30. Upon turning 18, his case was reviewed and it
was deemed that he met the definition of disability for
adults. Tr. 30, 47. On September 19, 2011, a review of the
case found that his disability ceased as of September 1,
2011. Tr. 31, 47. Plaintiff requested reconsideration of the
cessation, Tr. 50, and the cessation was affirmed, Tr. 51. On
February 2, 2012, Plaintiff attended a hearing with a
Disability Hearing Officer. Tr. 54. The Hearing Officer
determined that cessation of benefits was appropriate, but
the correct cessation date was April 1, 2012. Tr. 64.
Plaintiff requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ). Tr. 65. On February 6, 2013, ALJ Lori Freund held a
hearing and continued the matter to allow Plaintiff time to
hire an attorney. Tr. 811-827. A second hearing was held on
August 21, 2013, and the ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff
and vocational expert, K. Diane Kramer. Tr. 828-870. The ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision on April 21, 2014. Tr. 15-28.
The Appeals Council denied review on March 31, 2016. Tr. 1-7.
The ALJ's April 21, 2014 decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner, which is appealable to the
district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff
filed this action for judicial review on May 26, 2016. ECF
No. 1, 4.
facts of the case are set forth in the administrative hearing
transcript, the ALJ's decision, and the briefs of the
parties. They are only briefly summarized here.
was 19 years old at the date of cessation, April 1, 2012. Tr.
32. Plaintiff has an eleventh grade education followed by a
GED. Tr. 610. He received services from Division of
Vocational Rehabilitation but has no work history. Tr.
611-612. His alleged impairments include Asperger's
syndrome, schizo-affective disorder, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
(EDS), anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and a sun
allergy. Tr. 210, 228, 855-859.
is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995). The Court reviews the ALJ's determinations of law
de novo, deferring to a reasonable interpretation of the
statutes. McNatt v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1084, 1087 (9th
Cir. 2000). The decision of the ALJ may be reversed only if
it is not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based
on legal error. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094,
1097 (9th Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is defined as
being more than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. Id. at 1098. Put another way,
substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971). If the evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, the court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ. Tackett, 180 F.3d at
1097. If substantial evidence supports the administrative
findings, or if conflicting evidence supports a finding of
either disability or non-disability, the ALJ's
determination is conclusive. Sprague v. Bowen, 812
F.2d 1226, 1229-1230 (9th Cir. 1987). Nevertheless, 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. 1988).
Commissioner has established an eight-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person's
disability has ended. 20 C.F.R. § 416.994(b)(5). This
process is similar to the five-step sequential evaluation
process used to evaluate initial claims, with additional
attention as to whether there has been medical improvement.
Compare 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 with 20 C.F.R. §
416.994(b)(5). A claimant is disabled only if his impairment
is "of such severity that he is not only unable to do
his previous work[, ] but cannot, considering his age,
education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy." 42 U.S.C. § l382c(a)(3)(B).
first step addresses whether the claimant has an impairment
or combination of impairments that meet or equal the severity
of listed impairments set forth at 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt.
P, app. 1. 20 C.F.R. § 4l6.994(b)(5)(i). If the
impairment does not equal a listed impairment, the second
step addresses whether there has been medical improvement in
the claimant's condition. 20 C.F.R. §
4l6.994(b)(5)(ii). Medical improvement is "any decrease
in the medical severity" of the impairment that was
present at the time the individual was disabled or continued
to be disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 4l6.994(b)(1)(i). If there
has been medical improvement, a step three determination is
made addressing whether such improvement is related to the
claimant's ability to perform work-that is, whether there
has been an increase in the individual's residual
functional capacity. 20 C.F.R. § 4l6.994(b)(5)(iii).
answer to step three is yes, the Commissioner skips to step
five and inquires whether all of the claimant's current
impairments in combination are severe. At step five, if
medical improvement is shown to be related to the
claimant's ability to work, a determination will be made
to assess whether the claimant's current impairments, in
combination, are severe-that is, whether they impose more
than a minimal limitation on his physical or mental ability
to perform basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §
4l6.994(b)(5)(v). If the answer to that inquiry is yes, the
claim proceeds to step six and the ALJ must determine whether
the claimant can perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §
4l6.994(b)(5)(vi). If the claimant can perform past relevant
work, his disability will be deemed to have ended.
Id. If the claimant cannot perform his past relevant
work, at step seven a limited burden of production shifts to
the Commissioner to prove there is alternative work in the
national economy that the claimant can perform given his age,
education, work experience, and residual functional capacity.
20 C.F.R. § 4l6.994(b)(5)(vii). Similarly, if the
claimant has no past relevant work, step eight mimics step
seven in considering his ability to perform other work in the
national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 4l6.994(b)(5)(viii). If
the claimant cannot perform a significant number of other
jobs, he remains disabled despite medical improvement; if,
however, he can perform a significant number of other jobs,
disability ceases. 20 C.F.R. §
if the answers to steps two or three is no, the evaluation
proceeds to step four. At step four, consideration is given
to whether the case meets any of the special exceptions to
medical improvement for determining that disability has
ceased. 20 C.F.R. § 4l6.994(b)(5)(iv). If no special
exception applies, the claimant's disability will be
found to continue.
the claimant bears the burden of proving disability,
Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098-1099, once a claimant has
been found disabled, a presumption of continuing disability
arises in his favor. Bellamy v. Sec. of Health &
Human Serv., 755 F.2d 1380, 1381 (9th Cir. 1985). The
Commissioner bears the burden of producing evidence
sufficient to rebut this presumption. Id.
April 21, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiffs
disability under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security
Act ended on April 1, 2012 and that Plaintiff had not been
disabled again since that date. Tr. 28.
identified the most recent favorable medical decision in the
case to be November 15, 2010 and deemed it the point of
comparison. In that determination, Plaintiff had the
medically determinable impairments of EDS and Asperger's
disorder and was found to meet section 11.04B of 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Tr. 17.
then found that as of April 1, 2012, Plaintiff had the
following medically determinable impairments: hypermobility
syndrome; IBS; somatization disorder; attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADITD); anxiety disorder, not
otherwise specified; and personality disorder with schizoid
and dependent features. Tr. 17.
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment
or combination of impairments which met or medically equaled
the severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. Tr. 17.
two, the ALJ determined that medical improvement had occurred