United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MICHELLE L. PETERSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
seeks review of the denial of her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the administrative law
judge (“ALJ”) erred by discounting her subjective
testimony, her husband's lay statement, and the opinions
of two of her treating physicians. (Dkt. # 8 at 1.) As
discussed below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's
final decision and DISMISSES the case with prejudice.
was born in 1956, has a college degree, and has worked as an
Alaska Airlines flight attendant, reservations agent, and
customer care manager. AR at 43, 62-63. Plaintiff was last
gainfully employed in July 2015. Id. at 190.
April 2015, Plaintiff protectively applied for benefits,
alleging disability as of July 31, 2015. AR at 151-52.
Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on
reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing.
Id. at 86-91, 94-95. After the ALJ conducted a
hearing on July 31, 2017 (id. at 36-65), the ALJ
issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled.
Id. at 15-27.
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since her alleged onset date.
Step two: Plaintiff's lumbar spine degenerative disc
disease, obesity, peripheral neuropathy, and fibromyalgia are
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the
requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”): Plaintiff
can perform light work with additional limitations: she can
lift and/or carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently. She can stand and/or walk for a total of six
hours in an eight-hour workday, and sit for a total of six
hours in an eight-hour workday. She can occasionally climb
ramps/stairs, but can never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. She can frequently balance and stoop, and
occasionally kneel, crouch, and crawl. She must avoid
concentrated exposure to extreme cold, heat, vibration,
fumes, odors, dusts, gases and poor ventilation, as well as
hazards such as moving machinery and unprotected heights.
Step four: Plaintiff can perform her past relevant work as a
reservations agent and senior reservations agent, and is
therefore not disabled.
AR at 15-27.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
the ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final
decision. AR 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.