United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDERDENYINGPLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT ECF NOS. 17, 18
K. DIMKE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
THE COURT are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment. ECF Nos. 17, 18. The parties consented to proceed
before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 7. 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. 17) and
grants Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 18).
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).
DISABILITY INSURANCE BENEFITS
Social Security Act provides disabled child's insurance
benefits based on the earnings record of an insured person
who is entitled to old-age or disability benefits or has
died. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a).
The same definition of “disability” and five-step
sequential evaluation outlined above governs eligibility for
disabled child's insurance benefits. See 42
U.S.C. § 423(d); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(1)-(2). In
addition, in order to qualify for disabled child's
insurance benefits several criteria must be met. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.350(a)(1)-(5). As relevant here, if the
claimant is over 18, the claimant must “have a
disability that began before [she] became 22 years
old.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5).
2013, shortly after she turned age eighteen, Plaintiff
applied for Title II child disability insurance benefits,
otherwise known as disabled adult child benefits, as the
survivor of her father, who died in March 2013. Tr. 212-15.
In September 2013, Plaintiff also applied for Title XVI
supplemental security income (SSI) benefits. Tr. 216-21.
Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of January 1, 2007
(eleven years old) in the SSI application, Tr.258, and June
9, 2013 in the insurance benefits application, Tr. 230.
Plaintiffs applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Tr. 112-48. Plaintiff appeared for a
consolidated hearing without representation before an
administrative law judge (ALJ) on January 13, 2015. Tr.
45-70. Id. A supplemental hearing was held on June
23, 2015, where Plaintiff was represented by counsel. Tr.
71-111. On July 29, 2015, the ALJ denied Plaintiffs claims.
noted that Plaintiff was born on June 9, 1995 and had not
attained the age of twenty-two as of January 1, 2007, the
alleged onset date. Tr. 20. At step one, the ALJ found
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since June 8, 2013, “the date Plaintiff attained the
age of eighteen, and the beginning of the relevant
period.” Tr. 20. At step two, the ALJ found
Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: depression
and anxiety. Tr. 21. 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. 21. The ALJ then concluded that
Plaintiff has the RFC to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels, but with the following nonexertional
the claimant is able to perform simple, routine, repetitive
tasks with no detailed work and only ordinary production
requirements. The claimant can have brief, superficial
contact with the general public and occasional, brief,
non-collaborative contact with co-workers. The claimant would
work better with things than with people.
At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff has no past relevant
work. Tr. 27. At step five, the ALJ found that considering
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC,
there are other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that the Plaintiff can perform such as
cleaner and kitchen helper. Tr. 28. The ALJ concluded
Plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, since June 8, 2013 through the date of
the decision. Tr. 28.
December 16, 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. § 1383(c)(3); 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.1481,
seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's final
decision denying her child disability insurance benefits
under Title II and supplemental security income benefits
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. ECF No. 17.