United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MICHELLE L. PETERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks review of the denial of his application for
Supplemental Security Income. Plaintiff contends the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred by giving
res judicata effect to a prior unfavorable ALJ
decision, discounting his subjective testimony, and in
weighing the medical evidence. (Dkt. # 16 at 2.) As discussed
below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final
decision and DISMISSES the case with prejudice.
was born in 1981, has a high school diploma, and has worked
as a home healthcare provider, hospital housekeeper, and
temporary laborer. AR at 75, 314. Plaintiff was last
gainfully employed in 2016. Id. at 615-21.
March 2013, Plaintiff applied for benefits. AR at 36. After
the ALJ conducted a hearing on October 2, 2014 (id.
at 64-108), the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled on December 16, 2014. Id. at 143-57. The
ALJ's decision became administratively final.
Id. at 36.
February 2015, Plaintiff again applied for benefits, alleging
disability as of October 1, 2010. AR at 283-91.
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on
reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing.
Id. at 192-99, 203-11. The ALJ conducted a hearing
on January 11, 2017 (id. at 606-49), and issued a
decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. Id. at
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the application date.
Step two: Plaintiff's borderline intellectual
functioning, major depressive disorder, and anxiety disorder
are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the
requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can perform a full
range of work at all exertional levels with additional
nonexertional limitations: he can perform simple, routine,
repetitive tasks with no requirement to read or comprehend
above a third-grade level. He can have no contact with the
public and occasional contact with coworkers and supervisors.
He should work in a routine and predictable environment with
less than occasional changes in work tasks.
Step four: Plaintiff can perform past relevant work.
Step five: In the alternative, there are other jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff can perform. Therefore, Plaintiff is not disabled.
AR at 36-49.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
the ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final
decision. AR at 6-11. 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.