United States District Court, W.D. Washington
ORDER AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY
Theresa L. Fricke United States Magistrate Judge
Mia Morgan has brought this matter for judicial review of
defendant's denial of her application for disability
insurance and 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 affirms the
Commissioner's decision denying benefits.
Morgan filed an application for SSI benefits and another one
for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits,
both on July 10, 2014. Dkt. 5, Administrative Record (AR) 20. She
alleged in both applications that she became disabled
beginning June 19, 2013. AR 20. Those applications were
denied on initial administrative review and on
reconsideration. AR 20. A hearing was held before an
administrative law judge (ALJ) on December 15, 2015. AR
38-61. Ms. Morgan and a vocational expert appeared and
found that Ms. Morgan could perform jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy, and therefore
that she was not disabled. AR 20-32 (ALJ decision dated
December 15, 2015). The Appeals Council denied Ms.
Morgan's request for review on May 18, 2017, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. AR
1. Ms. Morgan appealed that decision in a complaint filed
with this Court on June 29, 2017. Dkt. 1; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.981, 416.1481.
Morgan seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand
for an award of benefits, or in the alternative for further
administrative proceedings, arguing that the ALJ misapplied
the law and lacked substantial evidence for her decision. At
step three of the five-step “sequential evaluation
process, ” the ALJ determined that Ms. Morgan does not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets
the criteria of an impairment listed in the regulations. AR
23; see 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925,
416.926. Ms. Morgan does not challenge this determination.
The ALJ determined at step four that Ms. Morgan could not
perform her past relevant work. AR 30-31. Ms. Morgan does not
challenge that finding. Ms. Morgan contends that the ALJ
erred in assessing her residual functional capacity and
finding her not disabled at step five of the sequential
evaluation process. In particular, she alleges that the ALJ
erred in rejecting certain medical opinion evidence. For the
reasons set forth below, the undersigned concludes that the
ALJ properly applied the law and substantial evidence
supports his decision. Consequently, the undersigned affirms
the decision to deny benefits.
STANDARD OF REVIEW AND SCOPE OF REVIEW
Commissioner employs a five-step “sequential evaluation
process” to determine whether a claimant is disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.520, 416.920. If the ALJ finds the
claimant disabled or not disabled at any particular step, the
ALJ makes the disability determination at that step and the
sequential evaluation process ends. See id.
five steps are a set of criteria by which the ALJ considers:
(1) Does the claimant presently work in substantial gainful
activity? (2) Is the claimant's impairment (or
combination of impairments) severe? (3) Does the
claimant's impairment (or combination) equal or meet an
impairment that is listed in the regulations? (4) Does the
claimant have residual functional capacity (RFC), and if so,
does this RFC show that the complainant would be able to
perform relevant work that he or she has done in the past?
And (5) if the claimant cannot perform previous work, are
there significant numbers of jobs that exist in the national
economy that the complainant nevertheless would be able to
perform in the future? Keyser v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724-25 (9th Cir. 2011).
Court will uphold an ALJ's decision unless: (1) the
decision is based on legal error; or (2) the decision is not
supported by substantial evidence. Revels v.
Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 2017).
Substantial evidence is “‘such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871
F.3d 664, 674 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Desrosiers v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573,
576 (9th Cir. 1988)). This requires “‘more than a
mere scintilla, '” though “‘less than a
preponderance'” of the evidence. Id.
(quoting Desrosiers, 846 F.2d at 576). If more than
one rational interpretation can be drawn from the evidence,
then the Court must uphold the ALJ's interpretation.
Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).
The Court may not affirm by locating a quantum of supporting
evidence and ignoring the non-supporting evidence.
Court must consider the administrative record as a whole.
Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir.
2014). The Court is required to weigh both the evidence that
supports, and evidence that does not support, the ALJ's
conclusion. Id. The Court may not affirm the
decision of the ALJ for a reason the ALJ did not rely on.
Id. Only the reasons identified by the ALJ are
considered in the scope of the Court's review.
THE ALJ'S CONSIDERATION OF THE MEDICAL EVIDENCE
is responsible for determining credibility and resolving
ambiguities and conflicts in the medical evidence.
Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 722 (9th Cir.
1998). Where the evidence is inconclusive,
“‘questions of credibility and resolution of
conflicts are functions solely of the [ALJ]'” and
this Court will uphold those conclusions. Morgan v.
Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 601
(9th Cir. 1999) (quoting Sample v. Schweiker, 694
F.2d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 1982)). As part of this discretion,
the ALJ determines whether inconsistencies in the evidence
“are material (or are in fact inconsistencies at all)
and whether certain factors are relevant” in deciding
how to weigh medical opinions. Id. at 603.
must support his or her findings with “specific, cogent
reasons.” Reddick, 157 F.3d at 725. To do so,
the ALJ sets out “a detailed and thorough summary of
the facts and conflicting clinical evidence, ”
interprets that evidence, and makes findings. Id.
The ALJ does not need to discuss all the evidence the parties
present but must explain the rejection of “significant
probative evidence.” Vincent on Behalf of Vincent
v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1393, 1394-95 (9th Cir. 1984)
(citation omitted). The ALJ may draw inferences
“logically flowing from the evidence.”
Sample, 694 F.2d ...