United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
Michelle L. Peterson, United States Magistrate Judge.
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 her mental
impairments to be not severe at step two, (2) discounting her
subjective testimony, and (3) assessing certain medical
opinion evidence. (Dkt. # 12 at 1.) As discussed below, the
Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final decision and
DISMISSES the case with prejudice.
was born in 1978, has three years of college, and has worked
as a tribal clerical administrator, delivery driver, and
retail security guard. AR at 259, 287. Plaintiff was last
gainfully employed in February 2011. Id. at 311.
September 2014, Plaintiff protectively applied for benefits,
alleging disability as of January 16, 2013. Id. at
232-46. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially
and on reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing.
Id. at 138-41, 149-56. After the ALJ conducted a
hearing on March 6, 2017 (id. at 41-76), the ALJ
issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled.
Id. at 15-29.
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since December 14, 2013, the beginning of the
Step two: Plaintiff's carpal tunnel syndrome, obstructive
sleep apnea, inflammatory arthritis, and fibromyalgia are
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the
requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can perform light
work with additional limitations: she can never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and never work at unprotected
heights, or in proximity to hazards such as heavy machinery
and dangerous moving parts. She can occasionally climb ramps
and stairs, as well as balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and
crawl. She can frequently handle and finger. She can perform
work in which concentrated exposure to extreme cold, heat,
respiratory irritants and vibration are not present.
Considering the effects of pain and medication as well as
intermittent mental health symptoms, she can understand,
remember, and carry out unskilled, routine, and repetitive
work that can be learned by demonstration, and in which the
tasks are predetermined by the employer.
Step four: Plaintiff cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform,
Plaintiff is not disabled.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
the ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final
decision. Id. at 1-6. Plaintiff appealed the final
decision of the Commissioner to this Court.
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.
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, ...