Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Marcy M. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

April 17, 2019

MARCY M., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          MICHELLE L. PETERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff seeks review of the denial of her applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred in (1) finding at step three that she does not meet a listing, (2) discounting her subjective testimony, and (3) assessing certain medical opinions. (Dkt. # 14 at 2.) As discussed below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final decision and DISMISSES the case with prejudice.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born in 1964, graduated from high school and has some college education, and has worked as a bartender, cashier, shipping/receiving clerk, grocery store stocker, deli worker, fruit sorter, prep cook, and cleaner. AR at 52, 207, 768-73. At the time of the most recent administrative hearing, Plaintiff had last been gainfully employed sometime in 2016. Id. at 768-69.

         In June 2008, Plaintiff protectively applied for benefits, alleging disability as of June 1, 2007. Id. at 68-69, 194-98. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing. Id. at 72-75, 79-85. After the ALJ conducted a hearing on November 18, 2010 (id. at 30-67), the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. Id. at 15-25.

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review (id. at 1-6), and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington granted the parties' stipulation to reverse the ALJ's decision and remand the case for further proceedings. Id. at 400-04. Plaintiff filed subsequent applications for benefits in 2011, which were denied initially and upon reconsideration, and, after a hearing (id. at 1006-26), the ALJ issued a decision dated February 7, 2013, finding Plaintiff not disabled. Id. at 411, 527; Supplemental AR (dkt. # 24) at 12-23, 136-51, 154-67, 230-39. The Appeals Council consolidated the 2008 and 2011 applications, and remanded the matter for further proceedings on the consolidated claims. AR at 411, 527, 838-39.

         An ALJ held another hearing, on October 14, 2014 (id. at 1027-51), and issued another decision denying Plaintiff's claims. Id. at 806-19. Plaintiff sought judicial review, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington granted the parties' stipulation to reverse the ALJ's decision and remand the case for further proceedings. Id. at 825-29. The Appeals Council remanded this matter to an ALJ, in accordance with the court order. Id. at 847-49. An ALJ held another hearing on September 27, 2017 (id. at 752-802), and subsequently issued a decision again finding Plaintiff not disabled. Id. at 710-29.

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [1] the ALJ found:

Step one: Plaintiff worked since her alleged onset date, but that work did not rise to the level of substantial gainful activity.
Step two: Plaintiff's degenerative disk disease, status post ganglion cyst on the right knee, affective disorder, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome status post release surgery on the right, borderline intellectual functioning, anxiety disorder, and substance addiction disorder are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”): Plaintiff can perform light work, with additional limitations: she can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. She can sit, stand, and walk six hours each in an eight-hour workday. She can frequently perform postural movements, except only occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, and occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She must avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations, and hazards such as heights and dangerous moving machinery. She can occasionally push/pull for operation of foot pedals bilaterally with the lower extremities. She has sufficient concentration, persistence, and pace to sustain simple, routine tasks in two-hour increments with the usual and customary breaks in an eight-hour workday. She can adapt to simple workplace changes as may be required for simple, routine task work. She can perform work activity that does not require more than General Educational Development level of two in reasoning, math, and language.
Step four: Plaintiff can perform past relevant work as an agricultural produce sorter, and therefore she is not disabled.
Step five: In the alternative, because there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, she is not disabled.

Id.

         Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision of the Commissioner to this Court.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the Commissioner's denial of social security benefits when the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 (9th Cir. 2005). As a general principle, an ALJ's error may be deemed harmless where it is “inconsequential to the ultimate nondisability determination.” Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1115 (9th Cir. 2012) (cited sources omitted). The Court looks to “the record as a whole to determine whether the error alters the outcome of the case.” Id.

         “Substantial evidence” is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and 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); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving any other ambiguities that might exist. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). While the Court is required to examine the record as a whole, it may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, it is the Commissioner's conclusion that must be upheld. Id.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. The ALJ Did Not Err in Finding that Plaintiff Did Not Meet a Listing

         Plaintiff argues that because the evidence shows that she meets the requirements of Listing 12.02, the ALJ's failure to explicitly discuss this listing was harmful. (Dkt. # 14 at 6-9.)

         1. Legal Standards

         At step three, the ALJ considers whether one or more of a claimant's impairments meet or medically equal an impairment listed in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the regulations. “The listings define impairments that would prevent an adult, regardless of his age, education, or work experience, from performing any gainful activity, not just ‘substantial gainful activity.'” Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 532 (1990) (emphasis in original; citations omitted).

         Plaintiff bears the burden of proof at step three. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987). A mere diagnosis does not suffice to establish disability. Key v. Heckler, 754 F.2d 1545, 1549-50 (9th Cir. 1985). “[An impairment] must also have the findings shown in the Listing of that impairment.” Id. at 1549-50 (quoting § 404.1525(d); emphasis added in Key). To meet a listing, an impairment “must meet all of the specified medical criteria.” Sullivan, 493 U.S. at 530 (emphasis in original).

         2. Listing 12.02

         Plaintiff argues that she meets Listing 12.02 because she satisfies ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.