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. 14, 15. Attorney Dana C. Madsen represents Lee S.
(Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney Summer
Stinson represents the Commissioner of Social Security
(Defendant). The parties have consented to proceed before a
magistrate judge. ECF No. 6. After reviewing the
administrative record and the 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 Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on September 22, 2014.
Tr. 75, 85. He alleged disability since September 29, 2013 on
his DIB application, Tr. 165, and August 1, 2012 on his SSI
application, Tr. 172. Upon application, he alleged the following
conditions limited his ability to work: titanium shoulder;
shoulder surgeries; weight limits for lifting; blood
pressure; back problems from a car accident at age 11; on the
job shoulder injury in October of 2004; acid reflux; and
Barrett's esophagus. Tr. 197. The applications were
denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 110-13,
115-20. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Stewart Stallings held
a hearing on September 21, 2016 and heard testimony from
Plaintiff and vocational expert Diane Kramer. Tr. 30-65. The
ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 9, 2017. Tr.
15-24. The Appeals Council denied review on February 27,
2018. Tr. 1-5. The ALJ's March 9, 2017 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 initiated this action for judicial
review on April 27, 2018. 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 42 years old at the alleged date of onset, September 29,
2013. Tr. 165. He completed his GED in 1988 and received
training through Job Corps. Tr. 198. His reported work
history includes assistant manager at a fuel station, labor
jobs, and janitorial work. Tr. 198, 208. When applying for
benefits Plaintiff reported that he stopped working on
September 29, 2013 because of his conditions. Tr. 197.
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. §§ 404.1520(a), 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. §§ 404.1520(a),
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, he is found
“disabled”. 20 C.F.R. §§
March 9, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff
was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act from
September 29, 2013 through the date of the decision.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since September 29, 2013, the alleged date
of onset. Tr. 17.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: left shoulder, status post three
surgeries; sleep apnea; chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease; back pain; and Barrett's esophagus. Tr. 17.
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments. Tr. 18.
four, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's residual function
capacity and determined he could perform a range of sedentary
work with the following limitations:
[H]e needs to be able to shift positions from sitting,
standing, or walking once an hour for 5 minutes while
remaining at his work station. With his left upper extremity,
he can frequently push and pull, reach in all directions,
finger, and handle. He can frequently climb ramps and stairs,
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, and never climb
ropes, ladders, or scaffolds. He should avoid frequent
exposure to extreme cold and heat, occasional exposure to ...