United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Stanley A. Bastian, United States District Judge
the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment, ECF Nos. 12 and 13. The motions were heard without
brings this action challenging the denial of disability
benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons
set forth below, the Court grants
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 13, and
denies Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment, ECF No. 12.
McClure protectively filed an application for supplemental
security income on October 24, 2011, alleging disability
beginning January 1, 2003. AR 226-231. His application was
denied initially on October 24, 2011, and upon
reconsideration on June 6, 2012. AR 143-146. Thereafter, Mr.
McClure filed a written request for hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). AR 147.
Marie Palachuk held a video hearing on August 21, 2013 (the
“first hearing”). AR 108. At the hearing, Mr.
McClure amended the alleged onset date of disability to
October 24, 2011. Id. ALJ Palachuk issued a decision
on September 9, 2013, finding Mr. McClure ineligible for
disability benefits. AR 105-128. The Appeals Council granted
Mr. McClure's request for review and remanded the case
back to ALJ Palachuk for a second hearing. AR 129.
to the remand order, ALJ Palachuk held a second video hearing
on October 7, 2015 (the “second hearing”). AR 20.
ALJ Palachuk issued a decision on October 28, 2015, again
finding Mr. McClure ineligible for disability benefits. AR
17-44. The Appeals Council denied Mr. McClure's request
for review. AR 1-6.
McClure timely filed the present action challenging the
denial of disability benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). ECF No. 1.
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.
§ 423(d)(1)(A). A claimant shall be determined to be
under a disability only if the claimant's impairments are
of such severity that the claimant is not only unable to do
his previous work, but cannot, considering claimant's
age, education, and work experience, engage in any other
substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
Commissioner of Social Security has established a five-step
sequential evaluation process for determining whether a
claimant meets the definition of disabled under the Social
Security Act. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4); Lounsburry
v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006).
one, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is presently
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). Substantial gainful activity is
defined as significant physical or mental activities done or
usually done for profit. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572. If the
individual is engaged in substantial gainful activity, he or
she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1571. If not, the
ALJ proceeds to step two.
two, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a severe
medically determinable impairment, or combination of
impairments, that significantly limits the claimant's
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). If the claimant does not have a
severe medically determinable impairment or combination of
impairments, he or she is not disabled. If the ALJ finds the
claimant does have a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, the ALJ proceeds to step three.
three, the ALJ must determine whether any of the
claimant's severe impairments “meets or
equals” one of the listed impairments acknowledged by
the Commissioner to be sufficiently severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526; 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpt.
P. App. 1 (“the Listings”). If the impairment
meets or equals one of the listed impairments, the claimant
is per se disabled and qualifies for benefits. If
not, the ALJ proceeds to the fourth step.
considering step four, the ALJ must determine the
claimant's “residual functional capacity.” 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). An individual's residual
functional capacity is his or her ability to do physical and
mental work activities on a sustained basis despite
limitations from his impairments. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(1). In making this finding, the ALJ must consider
all of the relevant medical and other evidence. 20 C.F.R.
four, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant's
residual functioning capacity allows the claimant to perform
past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e)-(f). If the
claimant can still perform past relevant work, he or she is
not disabled. If the ALJ finds the claimant cannot perform
past relevant work, the analysis proceeds to the fifth and
five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove the
claimant is able to perform other work in the national
economy, taking into account claimant's age, education,
work experience, and residual functioning capacity. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(g). To meet this burden, the Commissioner
must establish (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, 388-89 (9th Cir.
district court's review of a final decision of the
Commissioner is governed by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The
scope of review under section 405(g) is limited, and the
Commissioner's decision will be disturbed “only if
the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial
evidence in the record as a whole or if the ALJ applied the
wrong legal standard.” Shaibi v. Berryhill,
870 F.3d 874, 878 (9th Cir. 2017). “Substantial
evidence” is defined as “such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104,
1121 (9th Cir. 2012). “The findings of the Commissioner
of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by
substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C
reviewing a denial of benefits, a district court may not
substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Matney v.
Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 1992). 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
reasonable dawn from the record.” Molina, 674
F.3d at 1111.
a district court “may not reverse and 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. The burden of
showing an error is harmful generally falls upon the party
appealing the ALJ's decision. Shinseki v.
Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 409-10 (2009).
facts of this case are set forth in detail in the transcript
of the proceedings, and accordingly, are only briefly
summarized here. Troy McClure was born on August 28, 1968. He
was forty-seven years old at the time of the second hearing
before ALJ Palachuk. Mr. McClure has a high school diploma,
and his previous work experience includes work as a material
handler, industrial cleaner, furniture assembler, sand
blaster, cook helper, and kitchen helper. Due to physical and
mental health issues, Mr. McClure has been unable to sustain
competitive employment on a regular and continuing basis
since October 2011.
step one, the ALJ found Mr. McClure has not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since October 24, 2011, the
alleged onset date of disability (citing 20 C.F.R. §
416.971 et seq). AR 23.
step two, the ALJ found Mr. McClure had the
following severe impairments: obesity; non-insulin dependent
diabetes mellitus; neuropathy; lumbar degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine; major depressive disorder;
anxiety disorder, not otherwise specified; pain disorder;
intermittent explosive disorder; and polysubstance dependence
in sustained full remission (citing 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(c)). AR 23.
step three, the ALJ found Mr. McClure does not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpt. P. App. 1 (citing
20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926). AR
reaching step four, the ALJ found Mr. McClure has the
residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b), with the following
• Mr. McClure can occasionally perform postural
activities but can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
• Mr. McClure must avoid all exposure to hazards such as
unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery;
• Mr. McClure can understand, remember, and carry out
simple and routine tasks and instruction involving up to
• Mr. McClure is able to maintain attention and
concentration for two-hour intervals between regularly
• Mr. McClure can adapt to no more than seldom changes
in the work routine and will require ten percent more time
than average employee to adapt to those changes when they
• Mr. McClure should perform decision-making on no more
than a seldom basis;
• Mr. McClure should perform work dealing with things
rather than people; and
• Mr. McClure can perform work in an essentially
isolated environment with only occasional supervision and no