United States District Court, E.D. Washington
JACK R. WHEELER, 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. 16, 17. Attorney Lora Lee Stover represents Jack R.
Wheeler (Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney
Jeffrey E. Staples represents the Commissioner of Social
Security (Defendant). The parties have consented to proceed
before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 7. 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.
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
on June 8, 2012, Tr. 267, alleging disability since July 1,
1991, Tr. 223-229, due to an LI compression fracture,
depression, three crushed discs in his back, carpal tunnel in
his right wrist, a broken right toe, a torn meniscus in the
right knee, a broken ankle, pins in his wrist, anxiety, a
broken leg, and a broken shoulder that did not heal properly.
Tr. 271. The application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Tr. 147-150, 154-156. Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Donna L. Walker held a hearing on October 2, 2014
and took testimony from Plaintiff, vocational expert, Daniel
McKinney, and medical expert, Anthony Francis, M.D. Tr.
57-87. At the hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged date of
onset to the date of application, June 8, 2012. Tr. 59. The
ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 3, 2014. Tr.
31-43. The Appeals Council denied review on March 29, 2016.
Tr. 1-7. The ALJ's November 3, 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 25,
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 44 years old at the date of application. Tr. 223.
Plaintiff received his GED in 1986 and attended some
community college ending in 2005. Tr. 272. He reported his
work history as a greenhouse worker, laborer, and landscape
foreman. Id. Plaintiff reported that he stopped
working on July 1, 2005 due to his conditions. Tr. 271.
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. Per ales, 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 a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a); see Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-142 (1987). In steps one
through four, the burden of proof rests upon the claimant to
establish a prima facie case of entitlement to disability
benefits. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098-1099. This
burden is met once the claimant establishes that physical or
mental impairments prevent him from engaging in his previous
occupations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). If the claimant
cannot do his past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to step
five, and the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that
(1) the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, and
(2) specific jobs exist in the national economy which the
claimant can perform. Batson v. Comm 'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193-1194 (9th Cir. 2004). If the
claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work in the
national economy, a finding of "disabled" is made.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).
November 3, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff
was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since June 8, 2012, the date of application.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: LI compression fracture; right carpal tunnel
syndrome; right toe fracture; right ankle fracture; leg
fracture; shoulder fracture; depression; and anxiety. Tr. 33.
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments. Tr. 34.
four, the ALJ assessed Plaintiffs residual function capacity
and determined he could perform a range of ...