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Ryan G. v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

June 26, 2019

RYAN G., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JOHN T. RODGERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT are cross-motions for summary judgment. ECF No. 14, 19. Attorney Dana Chris Madsen represents Ryan G. (Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney Catherine Escobar 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 GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         JURISDICTION

         Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on September 24, 2013, alleging disability since January 1, 2011, due to mental health impairments, including generalized anxiety, panic disorder with agoraphobia, social communication disorder, dysthymia, and avoidant personality disorder. Tr. 77. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 99-102, 106-08. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Donna Walker held a hearing on January 26, 2016, Tr. 36-75, and issued an unfavorable decision on February 18, 2016, Tr. 15-25. Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council and the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on March 30, 2018. Tr. 1-5. The ALJ's February 2016 decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, which is appealable to the district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff filed this action for judicial review on May 23, 2018. ECF No. 1, 4.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Plaintiff was born in 1994 and was 19 years old as of the filing of his application. Tr. 24. He has a high school education and received some special education services when in school. Tr. 39-40. He has lived with his mother or his grandmother his entire life and has never had a job. Tr. 47-48, 54-56.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The ALJ 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 ALJ's determinations of law are reviewed de novo, with deference to a reasonable interpretation of the applicable 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; Morgan v. Commissioner of Social Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). 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, 1229-1230 (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. 1988).

         SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS

         The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-142 (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 1098-1099. This burden is met once a claimant establishes that a physical or mental impairment prevents the claimant from engaging in past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 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 a claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work in the national economy, the claimant will be found disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).

         ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

         On February 18, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act.

         At step one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 24, 2013, the application date. Tr. 18.

         At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: persistent depressive disorder, unspecified anxiety disorder, and personality ...


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