United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
T. RODGERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
THE COURT are cross-motions for summary judgment.
ECF Nos. 13, 15. Attorney Dana C. Madsen represents Julie S.
(Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney Jacob
P. Phillips 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 DENIES, Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment and GRANTS Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment.
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
on August 26, 2015, Tr. 67, alleging disability since January
of 2004, Tr. 170, due to a back injury, ankylosing
spondylitis, degenerative disc disease, bone spurs in her
back, spinal stenosis, nerve damage in her legs and feet,
chronic pain, and fibromyalgia, Tr. 209. The application was
denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 95-103,
107-13. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Marie Palachuk held a
hearing on May 18, 2017 and heard testimony from Plaintiff,
medical expert Lynn Jahnke, M.D., and vocational expert
Sharon F. Welter. Tr. 40-66. At the hearing, Plaintiff
amended her date of onset to the date of application, August
26, 2015. Tr. 45. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on
July 25, 2017. Tr. 20-31. The Appeals Council denied review
on May 24, 2018. Tr. 1-3. The ALJ's July 25, 2017
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, which
is appealable to the district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c). Plaintiff filed this action for
judicial review on July 17, 2018. ECF Nos. 1, 4.
facts of the case are set forth in the administrative hearing
transcript, the ALJ's decision, and the briefs of the
parties. They are only briefly summarized here.
was 44 years old at the date of application. Tr. 169. She
reported that she completed one year of college in 2004. Tr.
210. Her reported work history includes jobs in assembly, as
a cashier, as a custodian and in customer service. Tr. 192,
211. When applying for benefits Plaintiff reported that she
stopped working on January 1, 2004 because of her conditions.
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 Court reviews the ALJ's determinations of law
de novo, deferring to a reasonable interpretation of the
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. 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, 1229-30 (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.
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a); see Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (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 1098-99. This burden
is met once the claimant establishes that physical or mental
impairments prevent her from engaging in her previous
occupations. 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 the
claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work in the
national economy, she is found “disabled”. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).
25, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not
disabled as defined in the Social Security Act from August
26, 2015 through the date of the decision.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since August 26, 2015, the date of
application. Tr. 22.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairment: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine. Tr. 22.
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments. Tr. 23.
four, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's residual function
capacity and determined she could perform a range of
sedentary work with the following limitations:
Specifically, standing and walking are limited to one hour at
a time and for no more than four hours per day (which is
actually less limiting/restrictive than the requirements for
sedentary work), and the claimant would need the ability to
stand and stretch for approximately one minute every hour,
after which she would sit back down at her workstation.
Postural activities are limited to occasional except that the
claimant cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds or crawl.
In addition, the claimant would need to avoid concentrated
exposure to extreme temperatures and industrial vibrations
and all exposure to hazards.
Tr. 23. The ALJ identified Plaintiff's past relevant work
as housekeeping cleaner and found that she could not perform