United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
FLORENCE M. MONROE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO VACATE AND
REMAND, OR, IN THE ALTERATIVE, TO REVERSE AND REMAND
J. BRYAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Florence M. Monroe seeks review of the denial of her
application for supplemental security income and disability
insurance benefits. Dkt. 13. As discussed below,
Plaintiff's motion should be DENIED and the Court should
AFFIRM Defendant Commissioner Nancy A. Berryhill's
(“the Commissioner”) final administrative
filed for SSI and disability benefits on October 25, 2013,
alleging a disability onset date of April 15, 2005.
Administrative Record (“AR”) 798. Plaintiff
appealed a “no disability” decision by the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) to the United
States District Court, which reversed and remanded for
further proceedings. AR 886-896. After an evidentiary hearing
on August 8, 2016, the ALJ issued a second “no
disability” decision, finding at Step Four that
Plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work. AR
798-811. The evidentiary hearing included testimony from
Plaintiff and a Vocational Expert (“VE”). AR
822-52. The Social Security Appeals Council affirmed the ALJ
decision. AR 783-789.
the five-step disability evaluation process, 20 C.F.R. §
416.920, the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since April 15, 2005, the
alleged onset date. AR 800.
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease and status-post
cervical fusion; asthma; diabetes; and hypertension. AR 801.
Step three: Plaintiff's impairments do
not meet or equal the requirements under 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1 of a listed impairment. AR 804.
Residual Functioning Capacity
(“RFC”): Plaintiff has the RFC “to
perform light work . . . with some exceptions. [Plaintiff]
can stand or walk for approximately six hours, and sit for
approximately six hours, per eight hour work day with normal
breaks. She can frequently climb ramps or stairs but never
climb ladders ropes or scaffolds. The claimant can frequently
stoop, kneel or crouch. She can occasionally crawl.
[Plaintiff] can frequently handle and reach with the left
upper extremity and unlimited with the right, except she
can have only occasional overhead reaching. [Plaintiff]
should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme
heat, and excessive vibration and workplace hazards[.]”
AR 805 (emphasis added).
Step four: Plaintiff is capable of
performing “past relevant work as a broadcast checker,
[which] does not require the performance of work-related
activities precluded by [Plaintiff's] residual functional
capacity.” AR 810.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits if the
ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not supported
by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Bayliss
v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005),
citing Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th Cir.
1999). The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility and
resolving ambiguities and conflicts in the medical evidence.
See Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 722 (9th Cir.
1998). Where the medical evidence in the record is not
conclusive, “questions of credibility and resolution of
conflicts” are solely the functions of the ALJ.
Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639, 642 (9th Cir.
1982). In such cases, “the ALJ's conclusion must be
upheld.” Morgan v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 601 (9th Cir. 1999).
resolving questions of credibility and conflicts in the
evidence, an ALJ's findings “must be supported by
specific, cogent reasons.” Reddick, 157 F.3d
at 725. The ALJ can do this “by setting out a detailed
and thorough summary of the facts and conflicting clinical
evidence, stating his interpretation thereof, and making
findings.” Id. The ALJ also may draw
inferences “logically flowing from the evidence.”
Sample, 694 F.2d at 642. Further, the Court itself
may draw “specific and legitimate inferences from the
ALJ's opinion.” Magallanes v. Bowen, 881
F.2d 747, 755 (9th Cir. 1989).
has raised two errors, quoted verbatim and discussed herein.
The ALJ failed to comply with prior Remand Order and did not
provide clear and convincing or even specific and legitimate
reasons for rejecting medical opinions and ignoring objective
evidence of Plaintiff's left arm limitations.
argument centers on the ALJ finding about Plaintiff's
left upper extremity, see Dkt. 13, 17, where the ALJ
found that Plaintiff “can frequently handle
and reach with the left upper extremity and unlimited with
the right, except she can have only occasional overhead
reaching.” AR 805 (emphasis added). Plaintiff assigns
this error first to ...