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 Nos. 13, 14. Attorney Lora Lee Stover represents Paul S.
(Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney Justin
Lane Martin 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 DENIES Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment and GRANTS Defendant's
motion for summary judgment.
filed applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on October 22, 2014, Tr.
201, 209, alleging disability since January 1, 2000, Tr. 315,
324, due to multiple mental health issues, depression,
anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a back
disorder, Tr. 361. The applications were denied initially and
upon reconsideration. Tr. 243-50, 253-59. Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Stewart Stallings held a hearing on August 18,
2016 and heard testimony from Plaintiff, medical expert
Stephen Rubin, Ph.D., and vocational expert K. Diane Kramer.
Tr. 162-200, 429. At the hearing, Plaintiff amended his
alleged date of onset to October 22, 2014 and withdrew his
request for a hearing on the DIB application. Tr. 165-66. The
ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on October 17, 2016. Tr.
93-105. The Appeals Council denied review on March 9, 2018.
Tr. 1-6. The ALJ's October 17, 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
April 24, 2014. 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 47 years old at the date of application and amended date
of onset. Tr. 324. He completed high school and one year of
college. Tr. 362, 412. His reported work history includes
building cabinets. Tr. 362-63. When applying for benefits
Plaintiff reported that he stopped working on January 1, 2000
because of his conditions. Tr. 361-62.
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 him from engaging in his previous
occupations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). If the claimant
cannot do his 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 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).
October 17, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff
was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act from
October 22, 2014 through the date of the decision.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since October 22, 2014, the date of