United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT ECF NOS. 15, 19
K. DIMKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
THE COURT are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment. ECF Nos. 15, 19. The parties consented to proceed before
a magistrate judge. ECF No. 6. The Court, having reviewed the
administrative record and the parties' briefing, is fully
informed. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants
Plaintiff's motion (ECF Nos. 15) and denies
Defendant's motion (ECF Nos. 19, 21-1).
Court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g); 1383(c)(3).
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);
1382c(a)(3)(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. §§ 423(d)(2)(A); 1382c(a)(3)(B).
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);
416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v). At step one, the Commissioner considers
the claimant's work activity. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i); 416.920(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); 416.920(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); 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If
the claimant suffers from “any impairment or
combination of impairments which significantly limits [his or
her] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities,
” the analysis proceeds to step three. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(c); 416.920(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); 416.920(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); 416.920(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. §§
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 or her
limitations, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a)(1);
416.945(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 or she has performed in the past (past relevant
work). 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv);
416.920(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);
416.920(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); 416.920(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);
416.920(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); 416.920(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);
416.960(c)(2); Beltran v. Astrue, 700 F.3d 386, 389
(9th Cir. 2012).
applied for disability insurance and supplemental security
income benefits on October 1, 2012, alleging a disability
onset date of April 30, 2007. Tr. 210-22. The applications
were denied initially, Tr. 141-47, and upon reconsideration.
Tr. 149-60. Plaintiff appeared for a hearing before an
administrative law judge (ALJ) on May 14, 2015. Tr. 29-66. On
August 13, 2015, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim. Tr.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since April 30, 2007, the alleged onset
date. Tr. 16. At step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff has the
following severe impairments: fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel
syndrome, spine disorder and anxiety disorder. Tr. 16. At
step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of a listed impairment. Tr. 17.
The ALJ then concluded that Plaintiff has the RFC
to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b), except [Plaintiff] can lift and carry 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, sit for six hours of
an eight hour work day; stand and walk for six hours of an
eight hour work day. [Plaintiff] can occasionally, up to 33%
of the workday, use her hands bilaterally for fingering and
handling gross and fine manipulation. She can occasionally
climb ramps, stairs, but never climb ladders and scaffolds.
She can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl.
[Plaintiff] can understand, remember, and carryout simple
instructions. She is limited to simple, routine and
Tr. 18. At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff is unable to
perform any past relevant work. Tr. 21. At step five, the ALJ
found that considering Plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, RFC, and testimony from a vocational expert,
there are other jobs that existed in significant numbers in
the national economy that Plaintiff could perform such as
counter clerk and usher. Tr. 22. The ALJ concluded Plaintiff
was not under a disability, as defined in ...