United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT, INTER ALIA
R. SUKO, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
THE COURT are the Plaintiff's Motion For Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 14) and the Defendant's Motion For
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 22).
Noel Lashbrook, Plaintiff, applied for Title XVI Supplemental
Security Income benefits (SSI) on May 11, 2012. The
application was denied initially and on reconsideration.
Plaintiff timely requested a hearing which was held on
September 23, 2014, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
Moira Ausems. Plaintiff testified at the hearing, as did
Vocational Expert (VE) K. Diane Kramer. On February 11, 2015,
the ALJ issued a decision finding the Plaintiff not disabled.
The Appeals Council denied a request for review of the
ALJ's decision, making that decision the
Commissioner's final decision subject to judicial review.
The Commissioner's final decision is appealable to
district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) and
facts have been presented in the administrative transcript,
the ALJ's decision, the Plaintiff's and
Defendant's briefs, and will only be summarized here. At
the time of her application for SSI benefits, Plaintiff was
27 years old, and at the time of the administrative hearing,
she was 30 years old. She has a high school education and no
past relevant work experience.
[Commissioner's] determination that a claimant is not
disabled will be upheld if the findings of fact are supported
by substantial evidence...." Delgado v.
Heckler, 722 F.2d 570, 572 (9th Cir. 1983). Substantial
evidence is more than a mere scintilla, Sorenson v.
Weinberger, 514 F.2d 1112, 1119 n.10 (9th Cir. 1975),
but less than a preponderance. McAllister v.
Sullivan, 888 F.2d 599, 601-602 (9th Cir. 1989);
Desrosiers v. Secretary of Health and Human
Services, 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988). "It
means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct.
1420 (1971). "[S]uch inferences and conclusions as the
[Commissioner] may reasonably draw from the evidence"
will also be upheld. Beane v. Richardson, 457 F.2d
758, 759 (9th Cir. 1972); Mark v. Celebrezze, 348
F.2d 289, 293 (9th Cir. 1965). On review, the court considers
the record as a whole, not just the evidence supporting the
decision of the Commissioner. Weetman v. Sullivan,
877 F.2d 20, 22 (9th Cir. 1989); Thompson v.
Schweiker, 665 F.2d 936, 939 (9th Cir. 1982).
the role of the trier of fact, not this court to resolve
conflicts in evidence. Richardson, 402 U.S. at 400.
If evidence supports more than one rational interpretation,
the court must uphold the decision of the ALJ. Allen v.
Heckler, 749 F.2d 577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984).
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. 1987).
argues the ALJ erred in: 1) failing to find at step two that
Plaintiff has a “severe” personality disorder; 2)
rejecting Plaintiff's symptom testimony; and 3) failing
to properly consider and weigh medical opinion evidence.
Social Security Act defines "disability" as the
"inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity
by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to result in death or which
has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period
of not less than twelve months." 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act also provides that a claimant shall
be determined to be under a disability only if her
impairments are of such severity that the claimant is not
only unable to do her previous work but cannot, considering
her age, education and work experiences, engage in any other
substantial gainful work which exists in the national
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42, 107 S.Ct. 2287 (1987).
Step one determines if she is engaged in substantial gainful
activities. If she is, benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(I). If she is not, the decision-maker proceeds
to step two, which determines whether the claimant has a
medically severe impairment or combination of impairments. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant does not
have a severe impairment or combination of impairments, the
disability claim is denied. If the impairment is severe, the
evaluation proceeds to the third step, which compares the
claimant's impairment with a number of listed impairments
acknowledged by the Commissioner to be so severe as to
preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(iii); 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpart P, App. 1.
If the impairment meets or equals one of the listed
impairments, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be
disabled. If the impairment is not one conclusively presumed
to be disabling, the evaluation proceeds to the fourth step
which determines whether the impairment prevents the claimant
from performing work she has performed in the past. If the
claimant is able to perform her previous work, she is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant
cannot perform this work, the fifth and final step in the
process determines whether she is able to perform other work
in the national economy in view of her age, education and
work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).
initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish
a prima facie case of entitlement to disability benefits.
Rhinehart v. Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th Cir.
1971). The initial burden is met once a claimant establishes
that a physical or mental impairment prevents her from
engaging in her previous occupation. The burden then shifts
to the Commissioner to show (1) that the claimant can perform
other substantial gainful activity and (2) that a
"significant number of jobs exist in the national
economy" which claimant can perform. Kail v.
Heckler, 722 F.2d 1496, 1498 (9th Cir. 1984).
found the following:
1) Plaintiff has “severe” medical impairments,
those being polysubstance abuse in early remission; mixed
adjustment disorder; and mild degenerative spondylosis with
mild dextroconvex curvature of the lumbar spine;
2) Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or equal any of
the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpart P,
3) Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §416.967(b)
in that she is able to lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally
and 10 pounds frequently; she is able to stand and walk six
hours in an eight hour workday and sit for six hours in an
eight hour workday; she is not able to climb ladders, ropes
or scaffolds; she can have no exposure to unprotected
heights, moving machinery, or commercial driving; she can
perform simple and routine tasks and no more than lower
semiskilled (SVP-3) tasks; she can have brief ...