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. 14, 15. Attorney Cory Brandt represents Dawn M.
(Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney L.
Jamala Edwards represents the Commissioner of Social Security
(Defendant). The parties have consented to proceed before a
magistrate judge. ECF No. 8. After reviewing the
administrative record and the 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 Disability Insurance Benefits on
April 25, 2014, alleging disability since August 27, 2013,
due to back conditions, headaches, blurred vision, Tourette
Syndrome, and a neck injury. Tr. 169-70, 232. The application
was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 104-06,
114-16. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Marie Palachuk held a
hearing on February 22, 2017, Tr. 36-63, and issued an
unfavorable decision on April 5, 2017, Tr. 16-29. The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on May 23,
2018. Tr. 1- 4. The ALJ's April 2017 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 July 23,
2018. ECF No. 1, 4.
was born on August 5, 1967 and was 46 years old on the
alleged onset date, August 27, 2013, and 47 years old as of
the date last insured. Tr. 76. She has a high school
education and work history as a cashier, dealer, and pit boss
in a casino, and in-home caretaker for disabled adults. Tr.
56, 207. She experienced an on-the-job injury in August 2013
when she intervened in an altercation between two residents
at her place of employment. Tr. 51. She returned to work at a
lighter duty position in November 2013, but the position was
not available after December 2013. Tr. 51-52.
application, Plaintiff alleged disability due to an inability
to use the right side of her body without extreme pain,
weakness, and numbing. Tr. 192. She was able to engage in
some household chores and to care for her child and pets,
though she stated she needed assistance from her husband. Tr.
192-95. She further indicated that she was unable to
concentrate for extended periods of time due to pain. Tr.
hearing, Plaintiff testified her neck pain caused the
greatest difficulties, and that since leaving her job, her
functional abilities had progressively worsened, resulting in
difficulty standing and functioning around the home. Tr.
52-53. She testified she had been using a cane, walker, or
wheelchair since shortly after her August 2013 injury. Tr.
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. § 404.1520(a); 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 a physical or
mental impairment prevents the claimant from engaging in past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(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) the claimant can perform specific jobs which
are available in the national economy. Batson v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193-94
(9th Cir. 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. §
April 5, 2017, 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 27, 2013, the alleged onset
date. Tr. 18.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairment: degenerative disc disease of the spine, ...