United States District Court, E.D. Washington
LORIE D. Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
T. RODGERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE COURT are cross-motions for summary judgment.
ECF Nos. 13, 14. Attorney Lora Lee Stover represents Lorie D.
(Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey
R. McClain 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 briefs filed by the parties, the
Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment.
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
on August 28, 2013, Tr. 145, alleging disability since
September 2, 2009, Tr. 258, due to a brain tumor, injuries
affecting memory, and mental stability, Tr. 292. The
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Tr. 170-73, 177-79. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) R.J. Payne
held a hearing on February 2, 2016 and heard testimony from
Plaintiff, medical expert, Lynn Jahnke, M.D., psychological
expert, Nancy Winfrey, Ph.D., and vocational expert, K. Diane
Kramer. Tr. 69-119. At the hearing, Plaintiff amended her
onset date to August 28, 2013. Tr. 71. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on March 9, 2016. Tr. 22-38. The Appeals
Council denied review on June 27, 2017. Tr. 1-7. The
ALJ's March 9, 2016 decision became the final decision of
the Commissioner, which is appealable to the district court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c). Plaintiff
filed this action for judicial review on August 24, 2017. ECF
Nos. 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 51 years old at the alleged date of onset. Tr. 258. Her
highest level of education was the eighth grade completed in
1976. Tr. 293. Her reported work history includes the jobs of
cashier, customer service representative, and laborer. Tr.
293. Plaintiff reported that she stopped working on December
1, 2003 because she was let go, but that her conditions
became severe enough to keep her from working as of September
2, 2009. Tr. 292.
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).
March 9, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff
was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since August 28, 2013, the amended date of
onset. Tr. 24.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease - cervical and lumbar
spine; cognitive disorder; depressive disorder; anxiety
disorder; pain disorder associated with psychological factors
and a general medical condition; ...