United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
LISA A. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge.
Lisa A. Johnson proceeds through counsel in her appeal of
a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied
plaintiff's applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) after a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Having
considered the ALJ's decision, the administrative record
(AR), and all memoranda, this matter is AFFIRMED. / / /
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1967. She completed the ninth grade and
previously worked as a deli counter worker, automobile
service station attendant, fast-foods worker, cook, and home
health aide. (AR 97-100.)
protectively filed for DIB in January 2013 and for SSI in
June 2012, alleging disability beginning October 1, 2007. (AR
272-81.) She remained insured for DIB through March 31, 2010,
requiring her to establish disability on or prior to that
“date last insured” (DLI). 20 C.F.R. §§
404.131, 404.321. Her applications were denied initially and
August 6, 2014, ALJ Laura Valente held a hearing. (AR 41-56.)
Because plaintiff appeared without counsel, the ALJ postponed
the hearing. The ALJ held a second hearing on May 21, 2015,
taking testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE).
(AR 57-107.) Plaintiff appeared at that hearing with counsel
and amended the alleged onset date to March 1, 2010. On July
27, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not
disabled. (AR 14-35.)
timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review on January 12, 2017 (AR 1-8), making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to
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 the amended alleged
onset date. At step two, it must be determined whether a
claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found
severe plaintiff's degenerative disc disease of the
lumbosacral spine, anxiety disorder, not otherwise specified,
and affective disorder. Step three asks whether the
impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found
plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the
criteria of a listed impairment.
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 able to lift twenty pounds occasionally
and ten pounds frequently; sit eight hours total and stand
and walk six hours total in an eight-hour workday; had no
postural limitations; could occasionally use right lower
extremity to push and pull, such as for operation of foot
pedals; and must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold
and hazards, such as heights and dangerous moving machinery.
The ALJ found plaintiff had sufficient concentration in
two-hour increments with usual and customary breaks
throughout the day; able to work superficially and
occasionally with the general public, meaning she can be a
greeter and refer the public to coworkers, but is not herself
having to resolve their demands or requests; can work in the
same room with an unlimited number of workers, but should not
work in coordination with them; and can maintain work
attendance and punctuality with simple, repetitive task work
and with other restrictions in the RFC. With that assessment,
the ALJ found plaintiff unable to perform her past relevant
claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant
work, or has no 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 the VE, the ALJ found plaintiff capable of
performing other jobs, such as work as a small parts
assembler, cafeteria attendant, and housekeeping cleaner.
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). Accord Marsh v. Colvin, 792 F.3d 1170,
1172 (9th Cir. 2015) (“We will set aside a denial of
benefits only if the denial is unsupported by substantial
evidence in the administrative record or is based on legal
error.”) 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 ...