United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY
THERESA L. FRICKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Allen Walker has brought this matter for judicial review of
defendant's denial of his application for disability
insurance and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits.
The parties have consented to have this matter heard by the
undersigned Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73; Local Rule MJR 13. For
the reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the
Commissioner's decision denying benefits.
March 20, 2014, Mr. Walker filed an application for a period
of disability and disability insurance benefits and another
application for supplemental security income benefits. Dkt.
9, Administrative Record (AR) 16. He alleged in his
applications that he became disabled beginning October 15,
2013. Id. His application was denied on
initial administrative review and on reconsideration.
Id. A hearing was held before an administrative law
judge (ALJ) on September 22, 2015. AR 33-69. Mr. Walker and a
vocational expert appeared and testified.
found that Mr. Walker could perform jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy, and therefore
that he was not disabled. AR 16-26 (ALJ decision dated
January 28, 2016). The Appeals Council denied Mr.
Walker's request for review on April 20, 2017, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. AR
1. Mr. Walker appealed that decision in a complaint filed
with this Court on June 23, 2017. Dkt. 4; 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.981, 416.1481.
Walker seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand
for an award of benefits or, alternatively, for further
administrative proceedings including a new hearing. He argues
that the ALJ misapplied the law and lacked substantial
evidence for her decision. He contends that the ALJ erred at
steps two and five of the five-step criteria. The alleged
errors concern the ALJ's reasons for finding allergic
bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) not to be a severe
impairment and for discounting a physician's
assistant's opinion about Mr. Walker's capabilities.
For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned concludes
that the ALJ properly applied the law and substantial
evidence supports her decision. Consequently, the undersigned
affirms the decision to deny benefits.
STANDARD OF REVIEW AND SCOPE OF REVIEW
Commissioner employs a five-step “sequential evaluation
process” to determine whether a claimant is disabled.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. If the ALJ finds the claimant
disabled or not disabled at any particular step, the ALJ
makes the disability determination at that step and the
sequential evaluation process ends. See id.
five steps are a set of criteria by which the ALJ considers:
(1) Does the claimant presently work in substantial gainful
activity? (2) Is the claimant's impairment (or
combination of impairments) severe? (3) Does the
claimant's impairment (or combination) equal or meet an
impairment that is listed in the regulations? (4) Does the
claimant have RFC, and if so, does this RFC show that the
complainant would be able to perform relevant work that he or
she has done in the past? And (5) if the claimant cannot
perform previous work, are there significant numbers of jobs
that exist in the national economy that the complainant
nevertheless would be able to perform in the future?
Keyser v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 648 F.3d
721, 724-25 (9th Cir. 2011).
issue here is the ALJ's step-two determination about
which of Mr. Walker's impairments qualify as
“severe, ” the ALJ's consideration of the
medical opinion evidence in assessing Mr. Walker's
residual functional capacity (RFC), and the ALJ's
consequent finding at step five that Mr. Walker can perform
jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy.
Court will uphold an ALJ's decision unless: (1) the
decision is based on legal error; or (2) the decision is not
supported by substantial evidence. Revels v.
Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 2017).
Substantial evidence is “‘such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871
F.3d 664, 674 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Desrosiers v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573,
576 (9th Cir. 1988)). This requires “‘more than a
mere scintilla, '” though “‘less than a
preponderance'” of the evidence. Id.
(quoting Desrosiers, 846 F.2d at 576). If more than
one rational interpretation can be drawn from the evidence,
then the Court must uphold the ALJ's interpretation.
Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).
The Court may not affirm by locating a quantum of supporting
evidence and ignoring the non-supporting evidence.
Court must consider the administrative record as a whole.
Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir.
2014). The Court is required to weigh both the evidence that
supports, and evidence that does not support, the ALJ's
conclusion. Id. The Court may not affirm the
decision of the ALJ for a reason upon which the ALJ did not
rely. Id. Only the reasons identified by the ALJ are
considered in the scope of the Court's review.
THE ALJ'S STEP TWO DETERMINATION
two of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ must
determine if an impairment is “severe.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. In this case, the ALJ
determined that Mr. Walker had three severe impairments:
moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, moderate
asthma, and insomnia secondary to steroid therapy for chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease. AR 18. Mr. Walker contends
that the ...