United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY
S. Lasnik United States District Judge.
Deadra G. appeals the final decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”), which denied her application
for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the
Social Security Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C.
§§401-33, after a hearing before an administrative
law judge (“ALJ”). For the reasons set forth
below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision and
DISMISSES this case with prejudice.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
is a 53-year-old woman with an associate's degree.
See Administrative Record (“AR”) at 59,
63. Plaintiff protectively filed an application for
disability insurance benefits on October 17, 2014, alleging
that her disability began on September 7, 2007. AR at 102,
300-06. The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denied Plaintiff's claims initially
and upon reconsideration. Id. at 102-09, 111-20.
requested review, pursuant to which ALJ Joanne Dantonio held
two hearings. See id. at 41-100. On February 1,
2017, ALJ Dantonio held a hearing at which she took testimony
from a vocational expert on Plaintiff's past relevant
work. Id. at 41-53. On July 24, 2017, ALJ Dantonio
held a second hearing at which she took testimony from
Plaintiff and another vocational expert. Id. at
September 5, 2017, ALJ Dantonio issued a decision finding
that Plaintiff had not been disabled as of her date last
insured. Id. at 15-32. The Appeals Council denied
review on August 22, 2018. Id. at 1-3.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
to 42 U.S.C. §405(g), the 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). “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.
as the claimant, bears the burden of proving that she is
disabled within the meaning of the Act. Meanel v.
Apfel, 172 F.3d 1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999). The Act
defines disability as the “inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity” due to a physical or
mental impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last,
for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C.
§423(d)(1)(A). A claimant is disabled under the Act only
if her impairments are of such severity that she is unable to
do her previous work, and cannot, considering her age,
education, and work experience, engage in any other
substantial gainful activity existing in the national
economy. 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(2)(A); see also Tackett
v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is
disabled within the meaning of the Act. See 20
C.F.R. §404.1520. The claimant bears the burden of proof
during steps one through four. Valentine v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d 685, 689 (9th Cir. 2009). At
step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner.
Id. If a claimant is found to be disabled at any
step in the sequence, the inquiry ends without the need to
consider subsequent steps. Step one asks whether the claimant
is presently engaged in “substantial gainful
activity.” 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(b). If she is,
disability benefits are denied. If she is not, the
Commissioner proceeds to step two. Id. At step two,
the claimant must establish that she has one or more
medically severe impairments, or combination of impairments,
that limit her physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities. 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(c). If the claimant does
not have such impairments, she is not disabled. Id.
If the claimant does have a severe impairment, the
Commissioner moves to step three to determine whether the
impairment meets or equals any of the listed impairments
described in the regulations. 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(d). A
claimant whose impairment meets or equals one of the listings
for the required 12-month duration is disabled. Id.
the claimant's impairment neither meets nor equals one of
the impairments listed in the regulations, the Commissioner
must proceed to step four and evaluate the claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”). 20 C.F.R.
§404.1520(e). Here, the Commissioner evaluates the
physical and mental demands of the claimant's past
relevant work to determine whether she can still perform that
work. 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(f). If the claimant is able to
perform her past relevant work, she is not disabled; if the
opposite is true, then the burden shifts to the Commissioner
at step five to show that the claimant can perform other work
that exists in significant numbers in the national economy,
taking into consideration the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(g);
Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1099-100. If the Commissioner
finds the claimant is unable to perform other work, then the
claimant is found disabled and benefits may be awarded. 20
September 5, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding the
1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of
the Act on June 30, 2012.
2. During the period from September 7, 2007, the alleged
disability onset date, through June 30, 2012, the date last
insured, the claimant did not engage in substantial gainful