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Ashley H. v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

July 26, 2019

ASHLEY H., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING DENIAL OF BENEFITS

          JAMES L. ROBART, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Ashley H. seeks review of the denial of her applications for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits. (See Compl. (Dkt. # 3).) Plaintiff contends that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred by (1) improperly rejecting Plaintiff's symptom testimony, (2) improperly evaluating the medical evidence, (3) improperly evaluating the lay witness testimony, and (4) improperly assessing Plaintiff's residual functional capacity and performing step five of the disability evaluation. (Pl. Op. Br. (Dkt. # 12) at 1.) As discussed below, the court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final decision and DISMISSES this case with prejudice.

         II. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920, the ALJ found:

Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 18, 2015, the alleged onset date. See 20 C.F.R §§ 404.1571-76, 416.971-76.
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: Asthma, bilateral knee patellar dysfunction, fibromyalgia. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c).
Step three: Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, 416.926.
Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”): Plaintiff can perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a). She can lift and/or carry 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently. She can stand and/or walk for two hours in an eight-hour work day. She can sit for six hours in an eight-hour work day. She can occasionally use foot controls bilaterally. She can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, crouch, and kneel. She cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and cannot crawl. She can occasionally tolerate exposure to vibration, temperature extremes, humidity extremes, and concentrated levels of dusts, fumes, gases, odors, and pulmonary irritants.
Step four: Plaintiff has no past relevant work. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1565, 416.965.
Step five: Considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, 416.969(a).

(Admin. Record (“AR”) (Dkt. # 7) at 25-37.) The ALJ thus found that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Social Security Act (“Act”), from September 18, 2015, through the date of the ALJ's decision. (Id. at 37.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision final. (See Id. at 11-13.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff, as the claimant, bears the burden of proving that she is disabled within the meaning of the Act. See Meanel v. Apfel,172 F.3d 1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the court may set aside a denial of social security benefits only 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 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005). The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving any other ambiguities that exist. Andrews v. Shalala,53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). Although the court is ...


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