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, 14. Attorney Dana C. Madsen represents Justin D.
(Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney Alexis
Toma 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 September 16, 2014, Tr. 115, alleging his disability began
on May 1, 2013, Tr. 240, due to depression, posttraumatic
stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety, and lower back pain,
Tr. 315. The application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Tr. 151-54, 158-60. Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) Lori Freund held a hearing on September 22, 2016 and
heard testimony from Plaintiff, medical expert Harvey Alpern,
M.D., psychological expert Margaret Moore, Ph.D., and
vocational expert Fred Cutler. Tr. 44-95. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on August 14, 2017. Tr. 18-33. The
Appeals Council denied review on May 24, 2018. Tr. 1-5. The
ALJ's August 14, 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 20,
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 29 years old at the date of application. Tr. 240.
Plaintiff attended special education courses, and the highest
grade he completed was the Ninth. Tr. 316. His reported work
history includes the jobs of cashier, fast food worker, and
construction laborer. Tr. 316, 323. When applying for
benefits Plaintiff reported that he stopped working on April
30, 2013 because of his conditions. Tr. 315.
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 him from engaging in his previous
occupations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). If the claimant
cannot do his past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to step
five, and the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show (1)
the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, and (2)
the claimant can perform specific jobs that 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, he is found “disabled”. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).
August 14, 2017, the ALJ found that from September 16, 2014
through the date of the August 14, 2017 decision, Plaintiff
was not disabled as the term is defined in the Social
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since September 16, 2014, the date of
application. Tr. 20.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine, mild; obesity; polysubstance dependence (alcohol,
cannabis, history of methamphetamine); personality disorder;
antisocial/cluster B; and depression, unspecified. Tr. 20.
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. 21.
four, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's residual function
capacity and determined he could perform a range of light
work with the following limitations:
The claimant can occasionally lift and carry a maximum of 20
pounds and can frequently lift and carry a maximum of 10
pounds. The claimant can sit for one hour at one time for a
total of six hours in an eight-hour workday with normal
breaks. He requires a cane for ambulation. The claimant can
stand and walk for one hour at a time for a total of four
hours in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks. The
claimant can frequently use his left foot for operation of
foot controls. He can occasionally stoop, balance, kneel,
crouch and crawl. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps,
stairs, ladders, ropes and scaffolds. The claimant can
perform simple and repetitive tasks. He can occasionally
interact with coworkers and supervisors on a superficial
basis, but he can never perform tandem tasks. He would work
best away from the public. The claimant can tolerate
occasional changes in work settings.
Tr. 23. The ALJ identified Plaintiff's past relevant work
as fast-food worker, construction worker, cashier II, and car
cleaner and found that he could not perform this past
relevant work. Tr. 31.
five, the ALJ determined that, considering Plaintiff's
age, education, work experience and residual functional
capacity, and based on the testimony of the vocational
expert, there were other jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform,
including the jobs of garment sorter, inspector-packer, and
table worker. Tr. 32. The ALJ concluded Plaintiff was not
under a disability ...