United States District Court, E.D. Washington
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND TO GRANT DEFENDANT'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ECF NOS. 14, 15
K. DIMKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE COURT are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment. ECF Nos. 14, 15. This matter has been referred to
the undersigned magistrate judge for issuance of a report and
recommendation. ECF No. 17. The Court, having reviewed the
administrative record and the parties' briefing, is fully
informed. For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies
Plaintiff's motion (ECF No. 14) and grants
Defendant's motion (ECF No. 15).
Court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
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.
Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir.
2001). 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).
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] 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 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 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).
applied for disability insurance benefits on August 28, 2012,
alleging an onset date of June 30, 2007. Tr. 194-201.
Benefits were denied initially, Tr. 140-42, and upon
reconsideration. Tr. 147-48. Plaintiff appeared for a hearing
before an administrative law judge (ALJ) on April 28, 2015.
Tr. 42-97. On May 15, 2015, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's
claim. Tr. 17-37.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not engage in substantial
gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset
date of June 30, 2007 through his date last insured of June
30, 2013. Tr. 27. At step two, the ALJ found that through the
date last insured, Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: disorders of the back - discogenic and
degenerative, osteoarthritis right shoulder, posttraumatic
stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. Tr. 27. At step
three, the ALJ found that through the date last insured,
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a
listed impairment. Tr. 28. The ALJ then concluded that
through the date last insured, Plaintiff had the RFC
to perform a full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(b), except he could only frequently push/pull on the
right; could only frequently overhead reach bilaterally;
could not climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; could only
frequently stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; could not have
concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat,
vibration, or hazards such as unprotected heights and moving
mechanical parts; was limited to simple routine tasks with a
reasoning level of three or less and well-learned detailed
tasks; could not perform at a production rate pace; could not
work with the public, and could have no more than superficial
contact with coworkers an supervisors.
Tr. 30. At step four, the ALJ found that through the date
last insured, Plaintiff was unable to perform any past
relevant work. Tr. 32. At step five, the ALJ found that
through the date last insured, considering Plaintiff's
age, education, work experience, and RFC, there were other
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that the Plaintiff could have performed, including:
housekeeper/cleaner, marker pricer, and agricultural produce
sorter. Tr. 33. The ALJ concluded Plaintiff was not under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any
time from June 30, 2007, the alleged onset date, through June
30, 2013, the date last insured. Tr. 33.
September 14, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review, Tr.
1-6, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's
final decision for purposes of judicial review. See
42 U.S.C. ...