United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
T. RODGERS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
THE COURT are cross-motions for summary judgment.
ECF No. 15, 20. Attorney Jeffrey Schwab represents Chad M.
(Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney Nancy
A. Mishalanie represents the Commissioner of Social Security
(Defendant). The parties have consented to proceed before a
magistrate judge. ECF No. 7. After reviewing the
administrative record and briefs filed by the parties, the
Court GRANTS Defendant’s Motion for
Summary Judgment and DENIES
Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
30, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for disability
insurance benefits, alleging disability since August 16,
2010, due to a back injury and depression. Tr. 152, 176.
Plaintiff’s application was denied initially and upon
Law Judge (ALJ) Moira Ausems held a hearing on June 23, 2015,
Tr. 51-84, and issued an unfavorable decision on September
20, 2015, Tr. 20-36. The Appeals Council denied review on
April 7, 2017. Tr. 1-6. The ALJ’s September 2015
decision thus 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 May 30, 2017. ECF No. 1, 4.
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 born on November 29, 1976, and was 33 years old on the
alleged onset date, August 16, 2010. Tr. 152. He completed
the ninth grade in school, attending special education
classes, and had not completed any type of specialized job
training, trade or vocational school. Tr. 68, 177.
Plaintiff’s disability report indicates he stopped
working in 2010, because of his condition(s). Tr. 176.
Plaintiff testified at the June 23, 2015, administrative
hearing that back pain as a result of an injury and the need
for rest breaks prevented him from being able to perform
work. Tr. 81-82. He stated he experienced back pain
“pretty much all day,” and could lift only about
five pounds without pain. Tr. 58. Plaintiff further indicated
he did not believe he could walk a mile at one stretch. Tr.
62. He did not describe any mental health limitations at the
stated his wife worked during the day, and he was responsible
for caring for their twin two-year-old boys during that time.
Tr. 59-60. Plaintiff testified he tried to help his wife as
much as possible (e.g., grocery shopping), Tr. 64; however,
he hired someone to take care of his yard, Tr. 65, his wife
did the cooking, Tr. 66, and his teenage daughter was
responsible for the housework and laundry, Tr. 66. He
described his typical day as waking up at 6:00 a.m. with his
twin toddlers, making them breakfast, and then spending the
day ensuring his sons were entertained (e.g., watching
television or playing in the backyard). Tr. 66-67. He had
been responsible for the daily care of his twin sons since
their birth. Tr. 60.
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 ALJ’s determinations of law are reviewed
de novo, with deference to a reasonable
interpretation of the applicable 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; Morgan v.
Commissioner of Social Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599
(9th Cir. 1999). 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, 1229-1230 (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. 1988).
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, 140-142 (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 1098-1099. This
burden is met once a claimant establishes that physical or
mental impairments prevent him from engaging in his previous
occupation. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). If a claimant
cannot do his past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to step
five, and the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that
the claimant can perform other jobs present in significant
numbers in the national economy. Batson v. Commissioner
of Social Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193-1194 (2004).
If a 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).