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Nadine T.-W. v. Saul

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

August 5, 2019

NADINE T.-W., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL

          Mary Alice Theiler, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff proceeds through counsel in her appeal of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner partially denied Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) after a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Having considered the ALJ's decision, the administrative record (AR), and all memoranda of record, this matter is AFFIRMED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1964.[2] She has a 10th-grade education, and has worked as a deli worker, order picker, retail cashier, and stock clerk. (AR 51, 180-83.)

         Plaintiff applied for DIB in June 2015. (AR 63, 154-60.) That application was denied and Plaintiff timely requested a hearing. (AR 88-90, 92-95.)

         On January 22, 2018, ALJ Larry Kennedy held a hearing, taking testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert. (AR 31-62.) On February 5, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (AR 15-26.) Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on November 7, 2018 (AR 1-6), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of that decision.

         JURISDICTION

         The Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         DISCUSSION

         The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2000). At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is gainfully employed. The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period between the alleged onset date and the date last insured (DLI). (AR 17.) At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found that through the DLI, Plaintiff's diabetes mellitus, emphysema, allergic rhinitis, obesity, and major depressive disorder were severe impairments. (AR 17-18.) Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found that through the DLI, Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the criteria of a listed impairment. (AR 18-20.)

         If a claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listing, the Commissioner must assess residual functional capacity (RFC) and determine at step four whether the claimant has demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The ALJ found that through the DLI, Plaintiff could perform medium work with additional limitations: she could frequently balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch. She could occasionally climb and crawl. She must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold and heat, pulmonary irritants, and hazards. She could perform simple, routine tasks and follow short, simple instructions. She could do work that needs little or no judgment and can perform simple duties that can be learned on the job in a short period. She required a work environment that is predictable and with few work setting changes. (AR 20.)

         With those assessments, the ALJ found that through the DLI, Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as an order picker. (AR 24-25.) In the alternative, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could also perform other representative jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, such as salvage laborer, hand packager, and marker II. (AR 25-26.)

         This Court's review of the ALJ's decision is limited to whether the decision is in accordance with the law and the findings supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th Cir. 1993). Substantial evidence means more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). If there is more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision, the Court must uphold that decision. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002).

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in discounting the opinion of consultative psychological examiner Patrick Reilly, Ph.D. The Commissioner argues that the ALJ's decision is ...


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