United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER
MICHELLE L. PETERSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
seeks review of the denial of her application for
Supplemental Security Income. Plaintiff contends the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred in
assessing the medical evidence and discounting her
testimony. (Dkt. # 13 at 1.) As discussed below, the
Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final decision and
DISMISSES the case with prejudice.
was born in 1967, has a GED and some college education, and
has worked as a seasonal flower worker, seasonal fish packer,
painter's apprentice, and dishwasher. AR at 41, 45- 49,
201. Plaintiff was last gainfully employed in 2006.
Id. at 200.
March 2012, Plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging
disability as of November 1, 2008.AR at 181-86. Plaintiff's
applications were denied initially and on reconsideration,
and Plaintiff requested a hearing. Id. at 114-26,
130-34, 136-38. After the ALJ conducted a hearing on December
6, 2013 (id. at 34-79), the ALJ issued a decision
finding Plaintiff not disabled. Id. at 16-29.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review (AR
at 6-10), and Plaintiff sought judicial review. The U.S.
District Court for the Western District of Washington
reversed the ALJ's decision and remanded for further
proceedings. Id. at 866-74. The ALJ held another
hearing on December 18, 2017 (id. at 802-39), and
subsequently issued a decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled. Id. at 781-94.
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since March 14, 2012.
Step two: Plaintiff's anxiety-related disorder,
depression, history of substance addiction disorder,
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine,
and asthma are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the
requirements of a listed impairment.
RFC: Plaintiff can perform light work with additional
limitations. She cannot work with fast-paced production
rates. She cannot work at unprotected heights. She cannot
drive industrial equipment. She cannot walk on an uneven
surface, either inside or outside. She cannot work in a very
noisy place. She is able to stand/walk for four hours
“at least one hour at a time, but no more total in an
eight hour work day.” She can sit for six hours in an
eight hour workday, persisting for no more than two hours at
a time. “If given a sit/stand alternating option, she
would be able to work eight of eight and persist in work
activity for four hours on her feet if needed.” She can
perform forward bending, stooping, and kneeling on an
occasional basis, but crouching, squatting, and/or crawling
would be less than occasional. She can lift/carry in
accordance with the definitions of light work.
She can understand, remember, and apply simple or detailed
instructions (having up to seven steps). She has retained
previously acquired knowledge, and can use this in
occupations as needed. She can engage in routine and higher
level social interactions with co-workers and supervisors,
but with unfamiliar persons and strangers (including the
public), she can have only routine, perfunctory social
interaction. She cannot be required to travel to new and
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.
Id. Plaintiff sought judicial review of this
decision by 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.
The ALJ Did Not Harmfully Err in Discounting Plaintiff's
discounted Plaintiff's subjective testimony because he
found it to be (1) inconsistent with the objective medical
evidence, which showed only mild/moderate findings, minimal
treatment, and/or improvement with treatment; and (2)
inconsistent with her daily activities, which suggest that
her limitations are not disabling. AR at 787-88. Plaintiff
argues that these reasons are not clear and ...