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 Jolene W.
(Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney Heather
L. Griffith 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 an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
on November 7, 2014, Tr. 120, and an application for
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on December 29, 2015, Tr.
179. She alleged her disability began on August 1, 2013, Tr.
224, 240, due to bipolar disorder, personality disorder,
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and cyclic vomiting
syndrome, Tr. 266. The DIB application was denied initially
and upon reconsideration. Tr. 151-53, 158-59. The SSI
application was consolidated with the DIB application at the
hearing level. Tr. 179. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Marie
Palachuk held a hearing on November 16, 2016 and heard
testimony from Plaintiff, medical expert Minh Vu, M.D.,
psychological expert Marian Martin, Ph.D., and vocational
expert Sharon Walter. Tr. 40-73. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on January 13, 2017. Tr. 19-33. The
Appeals Council denied review on March 26, 2018. Tr. 1-5. The
ALJ's January 13, 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 filed this action for judicial review on May 21,
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 37 years old at the alleged date of onset. Tr. 224. She
completed her GED in 2009. Tr. 267. Her reported work history
includes the jobs of caregiver, fast food worker,
housekeeper, appointment setter, and telemarketer. Tr. 267,
282-87. When applying for benefits Plaintiff reported that
she stopped working on August 13, 2013 because of her
conditions. Tr. 266.
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 her from engaging in
her previous occupations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a),
416.920(a)(4). If the claimant cannot do her 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, she is
found “disabled”. 20 C.F.R. §§
January 13, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff
was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act from
August 1, 2013 through the date of the decision.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since August 1, 2013, the alleged date of
onset. Tr. 21.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: cyclic vomiting syndrome; right shoulder
tendinopathy; migraines; bipolar disorder; PTSD; ...