United States District Court, W.D. Washington
KRISTINA M. GLINES-HANEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING COMMISSIONER'S DECISION AND
S. Lasnik United States District Judge
Kristina M. Glines-Haney appeals the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”), which denied her applications
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-33 and 1381-83f, after a hearing before an administrative
law judge (“ALJ”). For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
is a 41-year-old woman with a sixth-grade education.
Administrative Record (“AR”) at 195, 201. Her
past work experience was as a cashier and a call center
employee. AR at 201. Plaintiff was last gainfully employed in
February of 2007. AR at 200.
filed applications for DIB and SSI on October 11, 2013. AR at
9. Plaintiff asserted that she was disabled due to
post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression,
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and bipolar
disorder. AR at 200.
Commissioner denied plaintiff's claims initially and on
reconsideration. AR at 9. Plaintiff requested a hearing,
which took place on March 30, 2015. Id. On July 27,
2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding that plaintiff was
not disabled based on her finding that plaintiff could
perform past relevant work. AR at 9-25. Plaintiff's
request for review by the Appeals Council was denied on
September 22, 2016 (AR at 1-4), making the ALJ's ruling
the “final decision” of the Commissioner as that
term is defined by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). On November 29,
2016, plaintiff timely filed the present action challenging
the Commissioner's decision. Dkt. No. 3.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits when
the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 (9th Cir.
2005). “Substantial evidence” is more than a
scintilla, less than a preponderance, and 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); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d
747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The ALJ is responsible for
determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical
testimony, and resolving any other ambiguities that might
exist. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th
Cir. 1995). While the Court is required to examine the record
as a whole, it may neither reweigh the evidence nor
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir.
2002). When the evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, it is the Commissioner's
conclusion that must be upheld. Id.
claimant, Ms. Glines-Haney bears the burden of proving that
she is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
(the “Act”). Meanel v. Apfel, 172 F.3d
1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999). The Act defines disability as the
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity” due to a physical or mental impairment which
has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period
of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). A claimant is disabled under
the Act only if her impairments are of such severity that she
is unable to do her previous work, and cannot, considering
her age, education, and work experience, engage in any other
substantial gainful activity existing in the national
economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); see also Tackett
v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is
disabled within the meaning of the Act. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The claimant bears the
burden of proof during steps one through four. At step five,
the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Id. If a
claimant is found to be disabled at any step in the sequence,
the inquiry ends without the need to consider subsequent
steps. Step one asks whether the claimant is presently
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If she is,
disability benefits are denied. If she is not, the
Commissioner proceeds to step two. At step two, the claimant
must establish that she has one or more medically severe
impairments, or combination of impairments, that limit her
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. If
the claimant does not have such impairments, she is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If
the claimant does have a severe impairment, the Commissioner
moves to step three to determine whether the impairment meets
or equals any of the listed impairments described in the
regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
A claimant whose impairment meets or equals one of the
listings for the required 12-month duration requirement is
the claimant's impairment neither meets nor equals one of
the impairments listed in the regulations, the Commissioner
must proceed to step four and evaluate the claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”). 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). Here, the Commissioner
evaluates the physical and mental demands of the
claimant's past relevant work to determine whether she
can still perform that work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(f), 416.920(f). If the claimant is able to perform
her past relevant work, she is not disabled; if the opposite
is true, then the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step
five to show that the claimant can perform other work that
exists in significant numbers in the national economy, taking
into consideration the claimant's RFC, age, education,
and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g),
416.920(g); Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1099, 1100. If the
Commissioner finds the claimant is unable to perform other
work, then the claimant is found disabled and benefits may be
27, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision ...