United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MICHELLE L. PETERSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
seeks review of the denial of his applications for
Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance
Benefits. Plaintiff contends the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) erred in discounting his testimony and
assessing the medical opinion evidence. (Dkt. # 11 at 1.)
As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that the
Commissioner's brief contains formatting irregularities,
namely condensed spacing. (Dkt. # 15.) This spacing detracts
from the readability of the document and in the future,
counsel shall refrain from utilizing this feature or
pleadings may be stricken.
discussed below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's
final decision and DISMISSES the case with prejudice.
was born in 1967, has a high school diploma, and has worked
as a construction day laborer and window warehouse laborer.
AR at 40-42, 214. Plaintiff was last gainfully employed in
December 2009. Id. at 213.
2014, Plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging disability as
of December 9, 2009. AR at 60-61, 189-97, 209-10.
Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on
reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing.
Id. at 120-26, 132-46. After the ALJ conducted a
hearing on November 16, 2016 (id. at 37-54), the ALJ
issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled.
Id. at 15-30.
Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process,
Step one: Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since January 30, 2013.
Step two: Plaintiff's cervical myeloradiculopathy, status
post failed anterior cervical discectomy and fusion,
headaches, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine,
right femoral acetabular impingement, and chronic meniscal
tear of the right knee are severe impairments.
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: he is limited to occasional
overhead reaching bilaterally. He is limited to occasionally
climbing ladders, scaffolds, ramps, and stairs, and crawling.
He is limited to frequent balancing, stooping, kneeling, and
crouching. He can never work around hazards such as
unprotected heights or heavy operating machinery. He cannot
operate a motor vehicle. He is precluded from working in
extreme cold conditions, or with machinery causing
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, 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.