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. 18, 19. Attorney Cathy M. Helman represents Mary
Eyvonne Green (Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States
Attorney David J. Burdett represents the Commissioner of
Social Security (Defendant). The parties have consented to
proceed before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 10. After
reviewing the administrative record and briefs filed by the
parties, the Court GRANTS Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment and DENIES
Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment.
filed applications for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income on November 13, 2012, alleging
disability since June 1, 2010, due to migraines, memory,
thyroid, depression and cellulitis. Tr. 196, 203, 235.
Plaintiffs applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Caroline
Siderius held a hearing on July 23, 2015, Tr. 43-92, and
issued an unfavorable decision on August 12, 2015, Tr. 21-33.
The Appeals Council denied review on January 24, 2017. Tr.
1-6. The ALJ's August 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 March 23, 2017. ECF
No. 1, 6.
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 March 11, 1981, and was 29 years old on the
alleged onset date, June 1, 2010. Tr. 196. She obtained a GED
in 1999, attended two years of college, and earned a
certification as a nursing assistant (CNA) in 2005. Tr. 61,
testified at the July 2015 administrative hearing that she
resided in a home with her three children, ages 14, nine and
six. Tr. 60. She stated she last worked as a CNA for St.
Luke's Rehabilitation in 2011, Tr. 61-62, 63, and left
that position when she suddenly begin experiencing
"severe migraines" and her neck and fingers began
becoming stiff. Tr. 62-63. When asked what she believed to be
her primarty obstacle to finding a job, Plaintiff testified
her memory issues, back issues, swelling in her feet, right
leg pain, depression and PTSD were her main problems. Tr. 80.
She later stated that her memory issues and
"breakthrough headaches" prevented her from
working. Tr. 84. Plaintiffs disability report indicates she
stopped working on June 30, 2011 because of her condition(s).
respect to her alleged impairments, Plaintiff described being
anxious around groups of people and having panic attacks
about once a month, Tr. 65, problems with her memory as a
side effect from taking headache medication (Topamax), Tr.
66-67, having day-long breakthrough headaches about three to
five times a week, Tr. 68, difficulty sleeping at night and
experiencing daytime sleepiness, Tr. 71, having constant back
and hip pain, Tr. 72-73, experiencing neck discomfort, Tr.
73-74, and having fluid retention or swelling and pain in her
legs and feet, Tr. 74-75.
testified she was able to care for her own personal grooming
and dressing, keep up with household chores, cook, shop,
drive and take care of her own finances. Tr. 75-77, 80. She
also reads, watches television and takes her dog for walks.
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 a 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 a 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 claimant can perform exist in the
national economy. Batson v. Commissioner of ...