United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION
AND DISMISSING THE CASE WITH PREJUDICE
C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STAT ES DISTRICT JUDGE.
seeks review of the denial of her application for
Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance
Benefits. Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred by rejecting
several medical and lay witness opinions and failing to
account for their consistency with each other. Dkt. 10. As
discussed below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's
final decision and DISMISSES the case with prejudice.
is currently 32 years old, has at least a high school
education, and has worked as a cook hel she was struck by a
motor vehicle. AR 70, 649. Plaintiff's applications were
denied initially, on reconsideration, and in an August 2014
ALJ decision. AR 69, 83, 97, 116, 12-23. Plaintiff appealed
to this court, which reversed the 2014 ALJ decision and
remanded the case for further administrative proceedings. AR
767. After additional ALJ hearings were held in July 2017 and
April 2018, the ALJ issued a decision in October 2018 finding
Plaintiff not disabled. AR 671, 720, 642-62.
Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process,
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since the October 2011 alleged onset date.
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe impairments:
cervical myofascial pain syndrome, cubital tunnel in left
upper extremity, carpal tunnel syndrome in the right upper
extremity, anxiety disorder, moderate depression, and
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Step three: Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or equal
the requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can perform light
work, lifting 20 pounds maximum and 10 pounds frequently, and
standing/walking 6 hours per day. She cannot crawl or climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can occasionally balance,
stoop, bend squat, kneel, crouch, and climb ramps and stairs.
She can use her upper extremities frequently for handling and
fingering, but her left upper extremity is limited to
occasional feeling. She can understand, carry out, and
remember simple instructions; respond appropriately to
supervision, coworkers, and usual work situations; and deal
with changes in a routine work setting. She is limited to
occasional and superficial interaction with the general
public and frequent interaction with supervisors and
coworkers, in a setting that does not involve working in a
highly interactive or interdependent workgroup.
Step four: Plaintiff cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform,
she is not disabled.
AR 645-62. The Appeals Council did not assume jurisdiction,
thus making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's
Court may set aside the Commissioner's denial of Social
Security benefits only if the ALJ's decision is based on
legal error or not supported by substantial evidence in the
record as a whole. Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d
664, 674 (9th Cir. 2017). Each of an ALJ's findings must
be supported by substantial evidence. Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 721 (9th Cir. 1998).
“Substantial 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 evaluating evidence,
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 ALJ. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947,
954, 957 (9th Cir. 2002). When the evidence is susceptible to
more than one interpretation, the ALJ's interpretation
must be upheld if rational. Burch v. Barnhart, 400
F.3d 676, 680-81 (9th Cir. 2005). This Court “may not
reverse an ALJ's decision on account of an error that is
harmless.” Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104,
1111 (9th Cir. 2012).
the ALJ found that Plaintiff has both physical and mental
impairments, Plaintiff challenges only the ALJ's
conclusions regarding her mental impairments. Dkt. 10.