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David G. v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

April 17, 2019

DAVID G., Plaintiff,


          Theresa L. Fricke United States Magistrate Judge.

         David G. has brought this matter for judicial review of defendant's denial of his application for disability insurance benefits. Plaintiff seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and requests that the Court remand for an award of benefits. The Court finds no error and affirms.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits in April 2014. Dkt. 9, Administrative Record (AR) 31. Plaintiff alleged that his disability onset date was July 29, 2013. Id. His claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. Id.

         A hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ) on December 14, 2015. AR 49-94. Plaintiff and a vocational expert appeared and testified. Id.

         The ALJ determined that plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: “degenerative joint disease of the left knee; status post-surgical repair for meniscal tear of the left knee; degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; and obesity.” AR 33.

         The ALJ found that, even with the impairments and symptoms that were reflected in the medical records and in testimony, plaintiff can perform certain types of “light” work, including his past jobs as a postal clerk and data entry clerk. AR 42. The ALJ therefore found that plaintiff is not disabled. Id. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review in March 2018, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. AR 1. Plaintiff appealed that decision with this Court. Dkt. 4.

         II. Standard of Review and Scope of Review

         The Commissioner employs a five-step “sequential evaluation process” to determine whether a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. If the ALJ finds the claimant disabled or not disabled at any step, the ALJ makes the disability determination at that step and the sequential evaluation process ends. See id.

         The five steps are a set of criteria by which the ALJ considers: (1) Does the claimant presently work in substantial gainful activity? (2) Is the claimant's impairment (or combination of impairments) severe? (3) Does the claimant's impairment (or combination) equal or meet an impairment that is listed in the regulations? (4) Does the claimant have residual functional capacity (RFC), and if so, does this RFC show that the complainant would be able to perform relevant work that he or she has done in the past? And (5) if the claimant cannot perform previous work, are there significant numbers of jobs that exist in the national economy that the complainant nevertheless would be able to perform in the future? Keyser v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 648 F.3d 721, 724-25 (9th Cir. 2011).

         The Court must consider the administrative record as a whole. Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009-10 (9th Cir. 2014). The Court is required to weigh both the evidence that supports, and evidence that does not support, the ALJ's conclusion. Id. The Court reviews “only the reasons provided by the ALJ in the disability determination and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not rely.” Id. at 1010.

         The Court will uphold an ALJ's decision unless: (1) the decision is based on legal error; or (2) the decision is not supported by substantial evidence. Revels v. Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 2017). Substantial evidence is “‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Biestek v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). This requires “more than a mere scintilla, ” though “less than a preponderance” of the evidence. Id.; Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d 664, 674-75 (9th Cir. 2017). If more than one rational interpretation can be drawn from the evidence, then the Court must uphold the ALJ's interpretation. Revels, 874 F.3d at 654. The Court may not affirm by locating a quantum of supporting evidence and ignoring the non-supporting evidence. Id.

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ misapplied the law and lacked substantial evidence for her decision to deny benefits. Specifically, plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by failing to conduct a sufficient analysis with respect to a listed impairment and failing to properly assess the opinion of an examining ...

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