United States District Court, E.D. Washington
DEBRA K. DAY, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARYJUDGMENT, INTER ALIA
R. SUKO SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
THE COURT are the Plaintiff's Motion For Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 13) and the Defendant's Motion For
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14).
K. Day, Plaintiff, applied for Title II Social Security
Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) on August 27, 2013, and
for Title XVI Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI) on
September 13, 2011. The applications were denied initially
and on reconsideration. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing
which was held on December 17, 2015, before Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) Jesse Shumway. Plaintiff testified at the
hearing, as did Medical Expert (ME) Lynn Jahnke, M.D., ME
Thomas McKnight, Ph.D., and Vocational Expert (VE) Sharon
Welter. On January 26, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision
finding the Plaintiff not disabled. The Appeals Council
denied a request for review of the ALJ's decision, making
that decision the Commissioner's final decision subject
to judicial review. The Commissioner's final decision is
appealable to district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§405(g) and §1383(c)(3).
facts have been presented in the administrative transcript,
the ALJ's decision, the Plaintiff's and
Defendant's briefs, and will only be summarized here.
Plaintiff has a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) and an
Associate Degree from Spokane Community College. She has past
relevant work experience as a cleaner and a housekeeper. She
alleges disability since January 21, 2012, on which date she
was 47 years old.
[Commissioner's] determination that a claimant is not
disabled will be upheld if the findings of fact are supported
by substantial evidence...." Delgado v.
Heckler, 722 F.2d 570, 572 (9th Cir. 1983). Substantial
evidence is more than a mere scintilla, Sorenson v. Wei
nberger, 514 F.2d 1112, 1119 n.10 (9th Cir. 1975), but
less than a preponderance. McAlli ster v. Sullivan,
888 F.2d 599, 601-602 (9th Cir. 1989); Desrosiers v.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, 846 F.2d 573,
576 (9th Cir. 1988). "It means such relevant evidence as
a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420 (1971). "[S]uch inferences and
conclusions as the [Commissioner] may reasonably draw from
the evidence" will also be upheld. Beane v.
Richardson, 457 F.2d 758, 759 (9th Cir. 1972); Mark
v. Celebrezze, 348 F.2d 289, 293 (9th Cir. 1965). On
review, the court considers the record as a whole, not just
the evidence supporting the decision of the Commissioner.
Weetman v. Sullivan, 877 F.2d 20, 22 (9th Cir.
1989); Thompson v. Schweiker, 665 F.2d 936, 939 (9th
the role of the trier of fact, not this court to resolve
conflicts in evidence. Ri chardson, 402 U.S. at 400.
If evidence supports more than one rational interpretation,
the court must uphold the decision of the ALJ. Allen v.
Heckler, 749 F.2d 577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984).
decision supported by substantial evidence will still be set
aside if the proper legal standards were not applied in
weighing the evidence and making the decision. Brawner v.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, 839 F.2d 432,
433 (9th Cir. 1987).
argues the ALJ erred in: 1) improperly assessing the medical
opinion evidence; and 2) failing to provide specific, clear
and convincing reasons for discounting Plaintiff's
testimony regarding her symptoms and limitations.
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) and § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act also provides
that a claimant shall be determined to be under a disability
only if her impairments are of such severity that the
claimant is not only unable to do her previous work but
cannot, considering her age, education and work experiences,
engage in any other substantial gainful work which exists in
the national economy. Id.
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920;
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42, 107 S.Ct.
2287 (1987). Step one determines if she is engaged in
substantial gainful activities. If she is, benefits are
denied. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i) and
416.920(a)(4)(i). If she is not, the decision-maker proceeds
to step two, which determines whether the claimant has a
medically severe impairment or combination of impairments. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii) and 416.920(a)(4)(ii).
If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or
combination of impairments, the disability claim is denied.
If the impairment is severe, the evaluation proceeds to the
third step, which 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(a)(4)(iii)
and 416.920(a)(4)(iii); 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpart P, App.
1. If the impairment meets or equals one of the listed
impairments, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be
disabled. If the impairment is not one conclusively presumed
to be disabling, the evaluation proceeds to the fourth step
which determines whether the impairment prevents the claimant
from performing work she has performed in the past. If the
claimant is able to perform her previous work, she is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv) and
416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant cannot perform this work,
the fifth and final step in the process determines whether
she is able to perform other work in the national economy in
view of her age, education and work experience. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v) and 416.920(a)(4)(v).
initial burden of proof rests upon the claimant to establish
a prima facie case of entitlement to disability benefits.
Rhi nehart v. Fi nch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th Cir.
1971). The initial burden is met once a claimant establishes
that a physical or mental impairment prevents her from
engaging in her previous occupation. The burden then shifts
to the Commissioner to show (1) that the claimant can perform
other substantial gainful activity and (2) that a