United States District Court, E.D. Washington
TINA M. CAMPBELL, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
VAN SICKLE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
THE COURT are the parties' cross motions for summary
judgment. ECF Nos. 16 and 17. This matter was submitted for
consideration without oral argument. The plaintiff is
represented by Attorney Joseph M. Linehan. The defendant is
represented by Special Assistant United States Attorney Leisa
A. Wolf. The Court has reviewed the administrative record and
the parties' completed briefing and is fully informed.
For the reasons discussed below, the court
GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment, ECF No. 17, and DENIES
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 16.
Tina M. Campbell protectively filed for disability insurance
benefits on January 15, 2013. Tr. 175-83. Plaintiff alleged
an onset date of June 1, 2009. Tr. 177. Benefits were denied
initially (Tr. 118-20) and upon reconsideration (Tr. 122-27).
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”), which was held before ALJ Jesse K.
Shumway on April 3, 2015. Tr. 44-92. Plaintiff was
represented by counsel and testified at the hearing.
Id. Medical expert Arvin J. Klein, M.D. also
testified. Tr. 53-65. The ALJ denied benefits (Tr. 17-37) and
the Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1. The matter is now
before this court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
facts of the case are set forth in the administrative hearing
and transcripts, the ALJ's decision, and the briefs of
Plaintiff and the Commissioner, and will therefore only the
most pertinent facts are summarized here.
Campbell (“Plaintiff”) was 39 years old at the
time of the first hearing. Tr. 72. Plaintiff graduated from
high school and then received her AA in medical office
administration from Interface College. Tr. 73. At the time of
the hearing, Plaintiff lived with her husband, who was a
truck driver, and their two children aged six and eleven. Tr.
71-72. Plaintiff's work history includes insurance clerk,
certified nurse assistant, sewing machine operator,
administrative clerk, specimen processor, and billing clerk.
Tr. 65-71, 82-83. Plaintiff testified that she was
5'10” tall and weighed 367 pounds at the time of
the hearing in April 2015; and in March 2015 the record
indicates she weighed 370 pounds and had a body mass index of
53.13. Tr. 72, 534-35.
testified that she stopped working in January 2009 due to
anemia during her pregnancy; and deep vein thrombosis and
pulmonary embolism after her son was born. Tr. 73-74. She
further reported that the “main symptom” that
prevents her from working is “constant” swelling
in her right leg and foot, which causes pain and makes
standing, sitting, and walking a “challenge.” Tr.
74. Plaintiff testified that she spends “the majority
of the day” lying down, due to the swelling; and she
estimated that in an eight-hour work day she would need to be
lying down, with her leg elevated up on a pillow, for
“at least six, seven hours.” Tr. 75-76. She can
stand for 20 minutes at the most before needing to sit down;
walk for 30 to 45 minutes, maybe an hour at the longest; and
sit for 30 minutes to an hour before she needs to lie down
and elevate her leg. Tr. 75-76, 79. She does grocery shopping
while holding the cart; and struggles to do laundry because
she has to climb stairs. Tr. 77-78. Plaintiff testified that
she takes care of her six year old son by herself, except
when he is in preschool a few hours a week. Tr. 79-80. When
she was sick right after her son was born in 2009, her family
helped take care of her son, but at the time of the hearing
her family helped take care of her kids and housework an
average of four or five hours a week. Tr. 80-81. Plaintiff
alleges disability due to Graves disease, intestinal issues,
hair loss, knee injury, blood clots, coagulation disorder,
knee, obesity, back, asthma, depression, migraines, neck,
hip, fatty liver, and restless leg syndrome. See Tr.
district court's review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security is governed by 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The scope of review under § 405(g) is
limited; the Commissioner's decision will be disturbed
“only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or
is based on legal error.” Hill v. Astrue, 698
F.3d 1153, 1158 (9th Cir. 2012). “Substantial
evidence” means “relevant evidence that a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. at 1159 (quotation and
citation omitted). Stated differently, substantial evidence
equates to “more than a mere scintilla[, ] but less
than a preponderance.” Id. (quotation and
citation omitted). In determining whether the standard has
been satisfied, a reviewing court must consider the entire
record as a whole rather than searching for supporting
evidence in isolation. Id.
reviewing a denial of benefits, a district court may not
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. If the
evidence in the record “is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, [the court] must uphold the
ALJ's findings if they are supported by inferences
reasonably drawn from the record.” Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2012). Further, a
district court “may not reverse an ALJ's decision
on account of an error that is harmless.” Id.
An error is harmless “where it is inconsequential to
the [ALJ's] ultimate nondisability determination.”
Id. at 1115 (quotation and citation omitted). The
party appealing the ALJ's decision generally bears the
burden of establishing that it was harmed. Shinseki v.
Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 409-10 (2009).
SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS
claimant must satisfy two conditions to be considered
“disabled” within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. First, the claimant must be “unable 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. § 423(d)(1)(A). Second,
the claimant's impairment must be “of such severity
that he is not only unable to do his previous work[, ] but
cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience,
engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which
exists in the national economy.” 42 U.S.C. §
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential analysis
to determine whether a claimant satisfies the above criteria.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v). At step
one, the Commissioner considers the claimant's work
activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). If the claimant
is engaged in “substantial gainful activity, ”
the Commissioner must find that the claimant is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).
claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the
analysis proceeds to step two. At this step, the Commissioner
considers the severity of the claimant's impairment. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant suffers
from “any impairment or combination of impairments
which significantly limits [his or her] physical or mental
ability to do basic work activities, ” the analysis
proceeds to step three. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). If the
claimant's impairment does not satisfy this severity
threshold, however, the Commissioner must find that the
claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).
three, the Commissioner compares the claimant's
impairment to severe impairments recognized by the
Commissioner to be so severe as to preclude a person from
engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If the impairment is as severe or more
severe than one of the enumerated impairments, the
Commissioner must find the claimant disabled and award
benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d).
severity of the claimant's impairment does not meet or
exceed the severity of the enumerated impairments, the
Commissioner must pause to assess the claimant's
“residual functional capacity.” Residual
functional capacity (RFC), defined generally as the
claimant's ability to perform physical and mental work
activities on a sustained basis despite his or her
limitations, 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1), is relevant to
both the fourth and fifth steps of the analysis.
four, the Commissioner considers whether, in view of the
claimant's RFC, the claimant is capable of performing
work that he or she has performed in the past (past relevant
work). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant
is capable of performing past relevant work, the Commissioner
must find that the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(f). If the claimant is incapable of performing such
work, the analysis proceeds to step five.
five, the Commissioner considers whether, in view of the
claimant's RFC, the claimant is capable of performing
other work in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(v). In making this determination, the
Commissioner must also consider vocational factors such as
the claimant's age, education and past work experience.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). If the claimant
is capable of adjusting to other work, the Commissioner must
find that the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(g)(1). If the claimant is not capable of adjusting
to other work, analysis concludes with a finding that the
claimant is disabled and is therefore entitled to benefits.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g)(1).
claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four
above. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th
Cir. 1999). If the analysis proceeds to step five, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner to establish that (1) the claimant
is capable of performing other work; and (2) such work
“exists in significant numbers in the national
economy.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c)(2); Beltran
v. Astrue, 700 F.3d 386, 389 (9th Cir. 2012).