United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
T. RODGERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE COURT are cross-motions for summary judgment.
ECF Nos. 16, 17. Attorney Christopher H. Dellert represents
Paula White (Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States
Attorney Franco L. Becia represents the Commissioner of
Social Security (Defendant). The parties have consented to
proceed before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 6. After reviewing
the administrative record and the briefs filed by the
parties, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment; DENIES
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment; and
REMANDS the matter to the Commissioner for
additional proceedings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
on April 26, 2013, Tr. 84, alleging disability since February
1, 2012, Tr. 201, due to bipolar disorder, manic depression,
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety, Tr.
The application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Tr. 106-10, 112-17. Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) Donna L. Walker held a hearing on May 11, 2016 and
heard testimony from Plaintiff, medical expert, John R.
Morse, M.D., psychological expert, Margaret R. Moore, Ph.D.,
and vocational expert, Polly A. Peterson. Tr. 42-73. The ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision on May 31, 2016. Tr. 25-35.
The Appeals Council denied review on June 13, 2017. Tr. 1-6.
The ALJ's May 31, 2016 decision became the final decision
of the Commissioner, which is appealable to the district
court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff filed
this action for judicial review on August 17, 2017. ECF Nos.
facts of the case are set forth in the administrative hearing
transcript, the ALJ's decision, and the briefs of the
parties. They are only briefly summarized here.
was 47 years old at the date of application. Tr. 201. Her
highest level of education was one year of college completed
in 1993. Tr. 254. Her reported work history includes the jobs
of flagger, healthcare worker, line worker, sander, temp
worker, and bell ringer. Tr. 254, 265. Plaintiff was working
at the time of her application, but reported making changes
in her work activity due to her conditions on February 1,
2012. Tr. 253.
is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995). The Court reviews the ALJ's determinations of law
de novo, deferring to a reasonable interpretation of the
statutes. McNatt v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1084, 1087 (9th
Cir. 2000). The decision of the ALJ may be reversed only if
it is not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based
on legal error. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094,
1097 (9th Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is defined as
being more than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. Id. at 1098. Put another way,
substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971). If the evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, the court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ. Tackett, 180 F.3d at
1097. If substantial evidence supports the administrative
findings, or if conflicting evidence supports a finding of
either disability or non-disability, the ALJ's
determination is conclusive. Sprague v. Bowen, 812
F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987). Nevertheless, a decision
supported by substantial evidence will 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.
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a); see Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987). In steps one
through four, the burden of proof rests upon the claimant to
establish a prima facie case of entitlement to disability
benefits. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098-99. This burden
is met once the claimant establishes that physical or mental
impairments prevent her from engaging in her previous
occupations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). If the claimant
cannot do her past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to step
five, and the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that
(1) the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, and
(2) specific jobs which the claimant can perform exist in the
national economy. Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193-94 (9th Cir. 2004). If the
claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work in the
national economy, a finding of “disabled” is
made. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).
31, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not
disabled as defined in the Social Security Act.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had engaged in substantial
gainful activity for the months of January, February, and
March of 2014. Tr. 27. However, the ALJ also found that there
had been a continuous twelve month period during which
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity,
and she continued her five-step sequential evaluation.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: mood disorder, not otherwise specified; PTSD;
personality disorder with cluster B traits; and obesity. Tr.
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments. Tr. 28.
four, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's residual function
capacity and determined she could perform a range of light
work with the following limitations:
the ability to lift and/or carry up to 20 pounds occasionally
(1/3 of the workday); 10 pounds frequently (2/3 of the
workday); sit up to 6 hours; stand and/or walk up to 6 hours;
unlimited ability to reach in all directions, including
overhead; unlimited manipulative abilities; unlimited
postural abilities, but should never climb ladders, ropes or
scaffolds; unlimited environmental abilities, but should
avoid hazardous machinery and heights.
Regarding understanding and memory, the claimant has the
ability to remember locations and work-like procedures;
understand and remember short and simple instructions.
Regarding concentration and persistence, has the ability to
carry out short and simple instructions; maintain attention
and concentration for periods required between legally
required breaks; perform activities within a schedule,
maintain regular attendance, and be punctual within customary
tolerances; sustain an ordinary routine without special
supervision; make simple work related decisions; complete a
normal workday and workweek ...