United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
DAVID R. ROBERTS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for Operations, Defendant.
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
Alice Theiler, United States Magistrate Judge
David R. Roberts proceeds through counsel in his appeal of a
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied
Plaintiff's applications for Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) after a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Having considered
the ALJ's decision, the administrative record (AR), and
all memoranda of record, this matter is AFFIRMED.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1966. He has a ninth-grade education, and has
worked as an auto mechanic, tile installer, and arborist. (AR
protectively applied for SSI and DIB in March 2014. (AR
76-77, 169-85.) Those applications were denied initially and
upon reconsideration, and Plaintiff timely requested a
hearing. (AR 112-14, 117-26.)
November 18, 2015, ALJ Robert P. Kingsley held a hearing,
taking testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE).
(AR 38-75.) On February 3, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision
finding Plaintiff not disabled. (AR 15-26.) Plaintiff timely
appealed. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on May 11, 2017 (AR 1-6), making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff
appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to this
Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation
process for determining whether a claimant is disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2000).
At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is
gainfully employed. The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since June 19, 2014, the
amended alleged onset date. (AR 17.) At step two, it must be
determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe
impairment. The ALJ found severe Plantiff's disorders of
the spine, including L4-L5 annular tear; and left knee
chondromalacia. (AR 17-19.) Step three asks whether a
claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment.
The ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet
or equal the criteria of a listed impairment. (AR 19-20.)
claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listing,
the Commissioner must assess residual functional capacity
(RFC) and determine at step four whether the claimant has
demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The
ALJ found Plaintiff capable of performing light work, with
additional limitations: he cannot climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. He can occasionally stoop and crouch. He can
occasionally push and pull with the lower extremities. (AR
20.) With that assessment, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to
perform any past relevant work. (AR 24.)
claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant
work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate at
step five that the claimant retains the capacity to make an
adjustment to work that exists in significant levels in the
national economy. With the assistance of a VE, the ALJ found
Plaintiff capable of performing other representative
occupations, such as production assembler; assembler,
electrical accessories; and bottle packer. (AR 35-36.)
Court's review of the ALJ's decision is limited to
whether the decision is in accordance with the law and the
findings supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole. See Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th
Cir. 1993). Substantial evidence means more than a scintilla,
but less than a preponderance; it means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d
747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). If there is more than one rational
interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision,
the Court must uphold that decision. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002).
argues the ALJ erred in (1) discounting his subjective
symptom testimony; and (2) assessing certain medical evidence
and opinions. The Commissioner argues that the ALJ's
decision is supported by substantial evidence and should be
discounted Plaintiff's testimony due to inconsistencies
between his allegations and the medical record, specifically
the evidence of sparse treatment, Plaintiff's delay in
pursuing treatments that could improve his functioning, and
conservative treatment. (AR 20-22.) The ALJ also cited many
normal examination findings, reasoning that these findings
were inconsistent with Plaintiff's allegations of
physical limitations, and noted that Plaintiff reported an
ability to carry 40 pounds with difficulty. (AR 20-21.)
Plaintiff argues that these reasons are not clear and
convincing, as required in the Ninth Circuit. Burrell v.
Colvin, 775 F.3d 1133, 1136-37 (9th Cir. 2014).
argues that the ALJ could not discount his testimony solely
because his allegations were not fully corroborated by the
medical evidence. Dkt. 12 at 9. But the ALJ did not solely
rely on this reasoning, and ...