United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY
B. Leighton United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Schonhardt's
Complaint [Dkt. 3] for review of the Social Security
Commissioner's denial of her application for disability
suffers from anxiety disorder and depressive disorder.
See Dkt. 7, Administrative Record 24. She applied
for disability insurance benefits in March 2014, alleging she
became disabled beginning in June 2007. See AR 22.
That application was denied upon initial administrative
review and on reconsideration. See id. A hearing was
held before Administrative Law Judge Stephanie Martz in July
2016. See id. At the hearing, Schonhardt amended her
alleged onset date to October 9, 2011. See id.
Schonhardt, represented by a non-attorney representative,
appeared and testified at the hearing, as did a vocational
expert. See AR 40-78.
determined Schonhardt not to be disabled. See AR
19-39. The Appeals Council denied Schonhardt's request
for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security. See AR 1-6;
20 C.F.R. § 404.981. In March 2017, Schonhardt filed a
complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision. See Dkt. 3.
argues that the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits
should be reversed and remanded for an immediate award of
benefits or for further administrative proceedings because
the ALJ erred in evaluating the medical evidence in the
record and Schonhardt's testimony, and therefore in
finding at step five of the sequential evaluation process
that Schonhardt was capable of performing work available in
the national economy.
Commissioner argues that the ALJ did not err in evaluating
the medical evidence or Schonhardt's testimony, so the
ALJ's finding that Schonhardt was not disabled was
supported by substantial evidence and should be affirmed.
Commissioner's determination that a claimant is not
disabled must be upheld by the Court if the Commissioner
applied the “proper legal standards” and if
“substantial evidence in the record as a whole
supports” that determination. See Hoffman v.
Heckler, 785 F.2d 1423, 1425 (9th Cir. 1986); see
also Batson v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d
1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004); Carr v. Sullivan, 772
F.Supp. 522, 525 (E.D. Wash. 1991) (“A decision
supported by substantial evidence will, nevertheless, be set
aside if the proper legal standards were not applied in
weighing the evidence and making the decision.”)
(citing Brawner v. Sec'y of Health and Human
Services, 839 F.2d 432, 433 (9th Cir. 1987)).
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)
(citation omitted); see also Batson, 359 F.3d at
1193 (“[T]he Commissioner's findings are upheld if
supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the
record.”). “The substantial evidence test
requires that the reviewing court determine” whether
the Commissioner's decision is “supported by more
than a scintilla of evidence, although less than a
preponderance of the evidence is required.”
Sorenson v. Weinberger, 514 F.2d 1112, 1119 n.10
(9th Cir. 1975). “If the evidence admits of more than
one rational interpretation, ” the Commissioner's
decision must be upheld. Allen v. Heckler, 749 F.2d
577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984) (“Where there is conflicting
evidence sufficient to support either outcome, we must affirm
the decision actually made.”) (quoting Rhinehart v.
Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th Cir. 1971)).
The Medical Evidence in the Record
determines credibility and resolves ambiguities and conflicts
in the medical evidence. See Reddick v. Chater, 157
F.3d 715, 722 (9th Cir. 1998). Where the medical evidence in
the record is not conclusive, “questions of credibility
and resolution of conflicts” are solely the functions
of the ALJ. Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639, 642
(9th Cir. 1982). In such cases, “the ALJ's
conclusion must be upheld.” Morgan v. Comm'r,
Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 601 (9th Cir. 1999).
Determining whether inconsistencies in the medical evidence
“are material (or are in fact inconsistencies at all)
and whether certain factors are relevant to discount”
the opinions of medical experts “falls within this
responsibility.” Id. at 603.
resolving questions of credibility and conflicts in the
evidence, an ALJ's findings “must be supported by
specific, cogent reasons.” Reddick, 157 F.3d
at 725. The ALJ can do this “by setting out a detailed
and thorough summary of the facts and conflicting clinical
evidence, stating his interpretation thereof, and making
findings.” Id. The ALJ also may draw
inferences “logically flowing from the evidence.”
Sample, 694 F.2d at 642. Further, the Court may draw
“specific and legitimate inferences from the ALJ's
opinion.” Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747,
755 (9th Cir. 1989). A physician's opinion “can
only be rejected for specific and legitimate reasons that are
supported by substantial evidence in the record.”
Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830-31 (9th Cir.
David Widlan, Ph.D.
argues that the ALJ erred by failing to provide a specific
and legitimate reason supported by substantial evidence to
discount the opinion of examining psychologist David ...