United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION TO
Theresa L. Fricke, United States Magistrate Judge
has brought this matter for judicial review of the
Commissioner's denial of his application supplemental
security income (SSI) benefits. The parties have consented to
have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge.
28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73;
Local Rule MJR 13. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
finds the decision to deny benefits should be affirmed.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
April 8, 2013, plaintiff filed an application for SSI
benefits, alleging he became disabled beginning May 10, 2008.
Dkt. 12, Administrative Record (AR) 12. Mr. Maxwell sustained
a head injury due to a car accident on January 12, 2008 that
resulted in post-concussive symptoms. AR 532-538, 543-549.
His application for benefits was denied on initial
administrative review and on reconsideration. Id. A
hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ), at
which plaintiff appeared and testified as did a vocational
expert. AR 35-161.
written decision dated June 26, 2015, the ALJ found that
plaintiff could perform his past relevant work as well as
other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national
economy, and therefore that he was not disabled. AR 12-28.
Plaintiff's request for review was denied by the Appeals
Council, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
the Commissioner, which plaintiff then appealed in a
complaint filed with this Court on January 26, 2017. AR 1;
Dkt. 3; 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.
seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand for
further administrative proceedings, arguing the ALJ erred:
(1) in failing to find plaintiff's post-concussive
syndrome was a severe impairment;
(2) in failing to properly evaluate the medical opinion
(3) in failing to properly assess plaintiff's residual
reasons set forth below, however, the Court disagrees that
the ALJ erred as alleged, and therefore affirms the
Commissioner's decision to deny benefits.
Commissioner's determination that a claimant is not
disabled must be upheld if the “proper legal
standards” have been applied, and the
“substantial evidence in the record as a whole
supports” that determination. Hoffman v.
Heckler, 785 F.2d 1423, 1425 (9th Cir. 1986); see
also Batson v. Comm'r of 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 nevertheless will be set
aside if the proper legal standards were not applied in
weighing the evidence and making the decision.”
Carr, 772 F.Supp. at 525 (citing Brawner v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Sers., 839 F.2d 432, 433
(9th Cir. 1987)). Substantial 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 The Commissioner's
findings will be upheld “if supported by inferences
reasonably drawn from the record.” Batson, 359
F.3d at 1193. Substantial evidence requires the Court to
determine whether the Commissioner's determination 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, ” that
decision must be upheld. Allen v. Heckler, 749 F.2d
577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984). That is, “[w]here there is
conflicting evidence sufficient to support either outcome,
” the Court “must affirm the decision actually
made.” Allen, 749 F.2d at 579 (quoting
Rhinehart v. Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th Cir.
The ALJ's Step Two Determination
Commissioner employs a five-step “sequential evaluation
process” to determine whether a claimant is disabled.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920. If the claimant is found disabled
or not disabled at any step thereof, the disability
determination is made at that step, and the sequential
evaluation process ends. Id. At step two of the
evaluation process, the ALJ must determine if an impairment
is “severe.” Id. An impairment is
“not severe” if it does not “significantly
limit” a claimant's mental or physical abilities to
do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(iii); Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-3p, 1996