United States District Court, E.D. Washington
JOHN L. CHARLTON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
H. WHALEY Senior United States District Judge
the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment, ECF Nos. 13-14. Mr. Charlton brings this action
seeking judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
of the Commissioner's final decision, which denied his
application for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C §§ 401-434.
After reviewing the administrative record and briefs filed by
the parties, the Court is now fully informed. For the reasons
set forth below, the Court GRANTS
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and
DENIES Mr. Charlton's Motion for Summary
Charlton filed for Disability Insurance Benefits on March 19,
2014. AR 137-38. His alleged onset date is August 5, 2013. AR
137-38. Mr. Charlton's application was initially denied
on June 26, 2014, AR 92-94, and on reconsideration on
September 16, 2014, AR 98-102.
hearing with Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Marie Palachuk occurred on May 21, 2015. AR 37-70. On July
10, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Mr. Charlton
ineligible for disability benefits. AR 14-36. The Appeals
Council denied Mr. Charlton's request for review on
November 20, 2015, AR 1-4, making the ALJ's ruling the
“final decision” of the Commissioner.
Charlton timely filed an action challenging the denial of
benefits, on January 15, 2016. Case No. 2:16-CV-0013-RHW. On
October 2, 2016, this Court remanded the case to the ALJ to
consider the opinion of Dr. Michael D'Angelo, Psy.D., and
the objective testimony related to Mr. Charlton's mental
impairments, and then recalculate the residual functional
capacity and Mr. Charlton's ability to perform past
relevant work, as well as work available in the national
economy. Case No. 2:16-CV-0013-RHW, ECF No. 17 at 15-16.
second hearing was held with ALJ Palachuk on February 23,
2017. AR 639-61. On March 1, 2017 the ALJ issued a decision
finding Mr. Charlton ineligible for disability benefits. AR
617-32. Because the Appeals Council did not assume
jurisdiction, the decision of the ALJ became final, see 20
C.F.R. § 404.984(d), and Mr. Charlton filed his current
Complaint in District Court on May 10, 2017 (ECF No. 3),
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Sequential Evaluation Process
Social Security Act defines disability 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). A claimant shall
be determined to be under a disability only if the
claimant's impairments are of such severity that the
claimant is not only unable to do his previous work, but
cannot, considering claimant's age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other substantial gainful work that
exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(2)(A) & 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) & 416.920(a)(4);
Lounsburry v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th
one inquires whether the claimant is presently engaged in
“substantial gainful activity.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b) & 416.920(b). Substantial
gainful activity is defined as significant physical or mental
activities done or usually done for profit. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1572 & 416.972. If the claimant is
engaged in substantial activity, he or she is not entitled to
disability benefits. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 &
416.920(b). If not, the ALJ proceeds to step two.
two asks whether the claimant has a severe impairment, or
combination of impairments, that significantly limits the
claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) &
416.920(c). A severe impairment is one that has lasted or is
expected to last for at least twelve months, and must be
proven by objective medical evidence. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1508-09 & 416.908-09. If the claimant does not have a
severe impairment, or combination of impairments, the
disability claim is denied, and no further evaluative steps
are required. Otherwise, the evaluation proceeds to the third
three involves a determination of whether any of the
claimant's severe impairments “meets or
equals” one of the listed impairments acknowledged by
the Commissioner to be sufficiently severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526 & 416.920(d), 416.925,
416.926; 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpt. P. App. 1 (“the
Listings”). If the impairment meets or equals one of
the listed impairments, the claimant is per se
disabled and qualifies for benefits. Id. If the
claimant is not per se disabled, the evaluation
proceeds to the fourth step.
four examines whether the claimant's residual functional
capacity enables the claimant to perform past relevant work.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e)-(f) & 416.920(e)-(f).
If the claimant can still perform past relevant work, the