United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
T. RODGERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE COURT are cross-motions for summary judgment.
ECF No. 14, 15. Attorney Dana Chris Madsen represents
Christopher Westgate Barrett (Plaintiff); Special Assistant
United States Attorney Franco L. Becia represents the
Commissioner of Social Security (Defendant). The parties have
consented to proceed before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 6.
After reviewing the administrative record and briefs filed by
the parties, the Court GRANTS
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and
DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
on January 3, 2013, alleging disability since July 1, 2000,
due to depression, deformed patellar tendon in right knee,
slipped discs in back, pericarditis, personality disorder,
dyslexia, ADD, and short term memory loss. Tr. 194, 198.
Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon
Law Judge (ALJ) Jesse K. Shumway held a hearing on July 29,
2015, Tr. 31-73, and issued an unfavorable decision on
September 3, 2015, Tr. 11-21. The Appeals Council denied
review on December 1, 2016. Tr. 1-6. The ALJ's September
2015 decision thus became the final decision of the
Commissioner, which is appealable to the district court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff filed this
action for judicial review on January 30, 2017. ECF No. 1, 4.
facts of the case are set forth in the administrative hearing
transcript, the ALJ's decision, and the briefs of the
parties. They are only briefly summarized here.
was born on August 27, 1986, and was 14 years old on the
alleged onset date, July 1, 2000, and 26 years old on the
date the application for SSI was filed, January 3, 2013. Tr.
57, 194-196. He obtained a GED in 2007 and also completed
specialized job training in truck driving in 2008. Tr. 199.
Plaintiff testified at the administrative hearing that he
last worked in 2011. Tr. 59. His disability report indicates
he stopped working in December 2011 because of his
condition(s). Tr. 199.
stated he received mental health treatment from Frontier
Behavioral Health about six months prior to the July 2015
administrative hearing but discontinued those services after
only about a month because he was no longer experiencing
symptoms of depression. Tr. 47. He testified his
psychological symptoms had gone away. Tr. 64-65.
respect to physical issues, Plaintiff indicated he has daily
chest pain, but his doctors had been unable to determine a
cause for the issue. Tr. 59-60. He stated that if he stays
seated or lies down, the chest pain will typically
dissipate.Tr. 60. He reported he therefore stays in bed most
of the day. Tr. 60. Plaintiff testified he also has dull pain
in his right knee and that it would give out on him about
five times a week. Tr. 61. He indicated he had been
prescribed a cane for the ailment, but he no longer used the
cane. Tr. 60-61. Plaintiff stated he has stomach issues, but
all tests on his colon and abdomen had been negative. Tr. 61.
He testified that approximately 15 days a month he has
diarrhea which requires him to use the bathroom 20 times a
day. Tr. 62. Plaintiff lastly indicated he has sharp lower
back pain due to four slipped discs. Tr. 65-66.
testified he could walk about two miles in one stretch, stand
about half-an-hour at one time, and sit about two hours
before needing to stand up and move around. Tr. 62-63.
Plaintiff stated that his daily activities consisted of
mostly lying in bed. Tr. 64. When asked why he lies in bed
most of the day, he responded, “because I have nothing
else to do really.” Tr. 66.
is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995). The ALJ's determinations of law are reviewed
de novo, with deference to a reasonable
interpretation of the applicable statutes. McNatt v.
Apfel, 201 F.3d 1084, 1087 (9th Cir. 2000). The decision
of the ALJ may be reversed only if it is not supported by
substantial evidence or if it is based on legal error.
Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir.
1999). Substantial evidence is defined as being more than a
mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Id.
at 1098. Put another way, 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). If the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the
Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1097; Morgan v.
Commissioner of Social Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599
(9th Cir. 1999). If substantial evidence supports the
administrative findings, or if conflicting evidence supports
a finding of either disability or non-disability, the
ALJ's determination is conclusive. Sprague v.
Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-1230 (9th Cir. 1987).
Nevertheless, a decision supported by substantial evidence
will be set aside if the proper legal standards were not
applied in weighing the evidence and making the decision.
Brawner v. Secretary of Health and Human Services,
839 F.2d 432, 433 (9th Cir. 1988).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a);
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-142 (1987). In
steps one through four, the burden of proof rests upon the
claimant to establish a prima facie case of entitlement to
disability benefits. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098-1099.
This burden is met once the claimant establishes that a
physical or mental impairment prevents the claimant from
engaging in past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). If the claimant cannot perform
past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to step five, and the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that (1) the
claimant can make an adjustment to other work; and (2)
specific jobs which the claimant can perform exist in the
national economy. Batson v. Commissioner of Social Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193-1194 (2004). If the claimant
cannot make an adjustment to other work in the national
economy, a finding of “disabled” is made. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v).
September 3, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Social Security
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the January 3, 2013, application date.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: somatoform disorder, personality disorder and
depression. Tr. 13.
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments. Tr. 14.
assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)
and determined he could perform a range of medium exertion
level work with the following additional limitations: he can
only frequently climb stairs and ramps, stoop, kneel, crouch,
crawl and climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; he must avoid
concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants and hazards; he
can perform only simple, routine, repetitive tasks with a
reasoning level of two or less; he is capable of only simple
decision-making in a routine, predictable environment; and he
can have no contact with the public and only superficial
contact with supervisors and coworkers. Tr. 14-15.
four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to perform any of
his past relevant work. Tr. 19. However, at step five, the
ALJ determined that based on the testimony of the vocational
expert, and considering Plaintiff's age, education, work
experience and RFC, Plaintiff could perform other jobs
present in significant numbers in the national economy,
including the jobs of kitchen helper, industrial cleaner and
laborer stores or warehouse worker. Tr. 19-20. The ALJ thus
concluded Plaintiff was not under a disability within the
meaning of the ...