United States District Court, E.D. Washington
TERRY M. LESHER, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT
MOTION AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT
SALVADOR MENDOZA JR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court, without oral argument, are cross-summary-judgment
motions. ECF Nos. 18 & 20. Plaintiff Terry M. Lesher
appeals the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) denial of
benefits. ECF No. 3. Mr. Lesher contends the ALJ improperly
(1) rejected the opinion of Mr. Lesher's treating
physician; (2) discredited Mr. Lesher's VA disability
rating; (3) rejected Mr. Lesher's subjective complaints;
and (4) determined Mr. Lesher had the ability to perform
other work in the national economy. The Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner”) asks the Court
to affirm the ALJ's decision.
reviewing the record and relevant authority, the Court is
fully informed. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
affirms the ALJ's decision and therefore denies Mr.
Lesher's motion and grants the Commissioner's motion.
STATEMENT OF FACTS 
the relevant period, Mr. Lesher suffered from several
impairments including: fibromyalgia, degenerative disc
disease, osteoarthritis of the right ankle, right
wrist/forearm fracture, carpal tunnel syndrome, and sleep
apnea treated with a CPAP. Mr. Lesher saw a number of
providers for treatment of his conditions. Tr. 801. Mr.
Lesher alleged that as a result of his conditions he was
unable to engage in most activities and lived a generally
sedentary lifestyle limited to sitting at home, reading, and
watching television. Tr. 81-82. However, Mr. Lesher did
occasionally drive and grocery shop for himself. Tr. 77-78.
Mr. Lesher is a retired veteran with twenty years'
service in the United States Airforce. Tr. 74. When he
retired in 2007, he was working as a shift supervisor for the
Lesher filed an application for disability insurance benefits
on January 21, 2014, alleging disability beginning on
December 31, 2007. Tr. 185-86. Mr. Lesher's application
for benefits was disapproved by the Social Security
Administration on March 27, 2014, and the agency denied
reconsideration on September 9, 2014. Tr. 102-15. Mr. Lesher
appealed to the Office of Disability and Adjudication Review
and, following a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ),
issued a decision denying benefits on March 25, 2015. Tr.
11-32. Mr. Lesher subsequently appealed to the Social
Security Appeals Council, which denied review. Tr. 1-10. Mr.
Lesher filed an appeal in this district on September 30,
2015. ECF No. 3.
“disability” is defined 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. §§
423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The decision-maker uses a
five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether
a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
one assesses whether the claimant is engaged in substantial
gainful activities. If he is, benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If he is not, the
decision-maker proceeds to step two.
two assesses whether the claimant has a medically severe
impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If the claimant does
not, the disability claim is denied. If the claimant does,
the evaluation proceeds to the third step.
three 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.
§§ 404.1520(d), 404 Subpt. P App. 1, 416.920(d). If
the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments,
the claimant is conclusively presumed to be disabled. If the
impairment does not, the evaluation proceeds to the fourth
four assesses whether the impairment prevents the claimant
from performing work he has performed in the past by
examining the claimant's residual functional capacity. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If the claimant
is able to perform his previous work, he is not disabled. If
the claimant cannot perform this work, the evaluation
proceeds to the fifth step.
five, the final step, assesses whether the claimant can
perform other work in the national economy in view of his
age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(f), 416.920(f); see also Bowen v. Yuckert,
482 U.S. 137 (1987). If the claimant can, the disability
claim is denied. If the claimant cannot, the disability claim
burden of proof shifts during this sequential disability
analysis. The claimant has the initial burden of establishing
a prima facie case of entitlement to disability
benefits. Rhinehart v. Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th
Cir. 1971). The burden then shifts to the Commissioner to
show (1) the claimant can perform other substantial gainful
activity, and (2) that a “significant number of jobs
exist in the national economy, ” which the claimant can
perform. Kail v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1496, 1498 (9th
Cir. 1984). A claimant is disabled only if his impairments
are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his
previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and
work experiences, engage in any other substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).