United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT
MOTION AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT
SALVADOR MENDOZA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Patrick John Page appeals the Administrative Law Judge's
(ALJ) denial of his application for Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) benefits. He alleges that the ALJ improperly (1)
failed to consider his eligibility for Listing 12.05C, (2)
found his symptom testimony not credible, and (3) discounted
the opinions of several medical providers. The ALJ did not
find that Mr. Page's borderline IQ was a severe
impairment at step two and therefore was not required to
consider Listing 12.05C at step three. The ALJ gave specific
reasons, supported by substantial evidence, for rejecting
Page's symptom testimony and for his consideration of the
medical opinions. Defendant's motion for summary judgment
is therefore granted.
Page filed an application for Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) on February 27, 2013, alleging disability beginning
August 15, 2011. AR 205-30. His claim was denied initially
and upon reconsideration. AR 149-52. Page requested a hearing
on September 11, 2015, and a hearing was held on July 22,
2015. AR 170- 71, 48-89. Page amended the onset date of his
claim to August 15, 2012, at the hearing. AR 13, 54. The ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision on August 6, 2015. AR 10-37.
The Appeals Council denied Page's request for review, AR
1-7, and he timely appealed to this Court. ECF No. 1.
“disability” is defined as the “inability
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). The decision-maker uses a
five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether
a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
one assesses whether the claimant is engaged in substantial
gainful activities. If he is, benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If he is not, the
decision-maker proceeds to step two.
two assesses whether the claimant has a medically severe
impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If the claimant does
not, the disability claim is denied. If the claimant does,
the evaluation proceeds to the third step.
three compares the claimant's impairment with a number of
listed impairments acknowledged by the Commissioner to be so
severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 404 Subpt. P App. 1, 416.920(d). If
the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments,
the claimant is conclusively presumed to be disabled. If the
impairment does not, the evaluation proceeds to the fourth
four assesses whether the impairment prevents the claimant
from performing work he has performed in the past by
examining the claimant's residual functional capacity. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If the claimant
is able to perform his previous work, he is not disabled. If
the claimant cannot perform this work, the evaluation
proceeds to the fifth step.
five, the final step, assesses whether the claimant can
perform other work in the national economy in view of his
age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(f), 416.920(f); see Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137 (1987). If the claimant can, the disability claim is
denied. If the claimant cannot, the disability claim is
burden of proof shifts during this sequential disability
analysis. The claimant has the initial burden of establishing
a prima facie case of entitlement to disability
benefits. Rhinehart v. Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th
Cir. 1971). The burden then shifts to the Commissioner to
show 1) the claimant can perform other substantial gainful
activity, and 2) that a “significant number of jobs
exist in the national economy, ” which the claimant can
perform. Kail v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1496, 1498 (9th
Cir. 1984). A claimant is disabled only if his impairments
are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his
previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and
work experiences, engage in any other substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).
one, the ALJ found that Page had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since August 15, 2012. AR 15. At step two,
the ALJ concluded that Page had the following medically
determinable severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of
the cervical and lumbar spine, pain disorder, depression and
anxiety. Id. The ALJ noted that Page had complaints
of abdominal pain, COPD, and carpal tunnel syndrome, but
found that none of these conditions were severe impairments.
AR 16. The ALJ also noted that Page had borderline
intellectual functioning as indicated by his performance on
intellectual testing (borderline range FSIQ of 73 and Verbal
Comprehension of 72, AR 529-32). However, the ALJ noted that,
based on the record as a whole-including, most notably,
Page's history of several years performing semi-skilled
work-Page's performance on the FSIQ test “is not
determinative of his functional capacity, and that he has no
worse than moderate limitations in that regard.” AR 16.
three, the ALJ found that Page did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of a listed impairment. AR 17-18. At step four, the
ALJ found that Page had the residual functional capacity to
perform a full range of light work with some additional
limitations. AR 18-28. In reaching this conclusion, the ALJ
found that Page's medically determinable impairments
could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms,
but he found that some of Page's statements concerning
the intensity, persistence and limiting effects were not
entirely credible. AR 19-20. In determining Page's
physical capacity, the ALJ gave significant weight to state
agency medical consultant, Dr. Alexander. AR 25. The ALJ gave
minimal weight to the opinion of DSHS consultative examining
physician, Dr. Shanks. AR 25-26. In determining Page's
mental functionality, the ALJ gave little weight to DSHS
consultative examining psychologist, Dr. Brown. The ALJ gave
minimal weight to the opinions of Page's girlfriend. The
ALJ did not consider opinions issued before the relevant
period. AR 26-28.
five, the ALJ found that Page is unable to perform any past
relevant work and that there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that he could
perform. AR 28-29.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court must uphold an ALJ's determination that a claimant
is not disabled if the ALJ applied the proper legal standards
and there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to
support the decision. Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d
1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing Stone v. Heckler,
761 F.2d 530, 531 (9th Cir.1985)). “Substantial
evidence ‘means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Id. at 1110 (quoting
Valentine v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d
685, 690 (9th Cir. 2009)). This must be more than a mere
scintilla, but may be less than a preponderance. Id.
at 1110-11 (citation omitted). Even where the evidence
supports more than ...