United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
H. WHALEY SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment. ECF Nos. 12, 13. Plaintiff brings this action
seeking judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision,
which denied her application for Disability Insurance
Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 401-434, and her application for Supplemental Security
Income under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C.
§1381-1383F. See Administrative Record (AR) at
1, 30, 44. After reviewing the administrative record and
briefs filed by the parties, the Court is now fully informed.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court
GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment.
filed her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income on April 14, 2015. See
AR 30, 234-240, 241-46. In both applications, Plaintiff's
initial alleged onset date of disability was August 1,
2013. AR 234, 241. Plaintiff's applications
were initially denied on August 20, 2015, see AR
155-162, and on reconsideration on October 9, 2015.
See AR 165-176. Plaintiff then filed a request for a
hearing on November 2, 2015. AR 177-78.
hearing with Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Jesse K. Shumway occurred on February 23, 2017. AR 30, 68,
70. On April 13, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision concluding
that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Act and was
therefore ineligible for disability benefits or supplemental
security income. AR 27-44. On March 14, 2018, the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, AR 1-6,
thus making the ALJ's ruling the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
11, 2018, Plaintiff timely filed the present action
challenging the denial of benefits. ECF No. 1. Accordingly,
Plaintiff's claims are properly before this Court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process
Social Security Act defines disability as the
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). A claimant shall
be determined to be under a disability only if the
claimant's impairments are so severe that the claimant is
not only unable to do his or her previous work, but cannot,
considering claimant's age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other substantial gainful work that
exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is
disabled within the meaning of the Act. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4); Lounsburry v.
Barnhart, 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006).
one inquires whether the claimant is presently engaged in
“substantial gainful activity.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). Substantial gainful
activity is defined as significant physical or mental
activities done or usually done for profit. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1572, 416.972. If the claimant is engaged in
substantial activity, he or she is not entitled to disability
benefits. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571, 416.920(b). If
not, the ALJ proceeds to step two.
two asks whether the claimant has a severe impairment, or
combination of impairments, that significantly limits the
claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). A
severe impairment is one that has lasted or is expected to
last for at least twelve months, and must be proven by
objective medical evidence. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1508-09, 416.908-09. If the claimant does not have a
severe impairment, or combination of impairments, the
disability claim is denied and no further evaluative steps
are required. Otherwise, the evaluation proceeds to the third
three involves a determination of whether one of the
claimant's severe impairments “meets or
equals” one of the listed impairments acknowledged by
the Commissioner to be sufficiently severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526 & 416.920(d), 416.925,
416.926; 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpt. P. App. 1 (“the
Listings”). If the impairment meets or equals one of
the listed impairments, the claimant is per se
disabled and qualifies for benefits. Id. If the
claimant is not per se disabled, the evaluation
proceeds to the fourth step.
four examines whether the claimant's residual functional
capacity enables the claimant to perform past relevant work.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e)-(f), 416.920(e)-(f). If
the claimant can still perform past relevant work, the
claimant is not entitled to disability benefits and the
inquiry ends. Id.
five shifts the burden to the Commissioner to prove that the
claimant is able to perform other work in the national
economy, taking into account the claimant's age,
education, and work experience. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1512(f), 404.1520(g), 404.1560(c) &
416.912(f), 416.920(g), 416.960(c). To meet this burden, the
Commissioner must establish that (1) the claimant is capable
of performing other work; and (2) such work exists in
“significant numbers in the national economy.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1560(c)(2); 416.960(c)(2);
Beltran v. Astrue, 676 F.3d 1203, 1206 (9th Cir.
Standard of Review
district court's review of a final decision of the
Commissioner is governed by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The
scope of review under § 405(g) is limited, and the
Commissioner's decision will be disturbed “only if
it is not supported by substantial evidence or is based on
legal error.” Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1144,
1158-59 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing § 405(g)). In reviewing
a denial of benefits, a district court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ. Matney v. Sullivan,
981 F.2d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 1992). When the ALJ presents a
reasonable interpretation that is supported by the evidence,
it is not the role of the courts to second-guess it.
Rollins v. Massanari, 261 F.3d 853, 857 (9th Cir.
2001). Even if the evidence in the record is susceptible to
more than one rational interpretation, if inferences
reasonably drawn from the record support the ALJ's
decision, then the court must uphold that decision.
Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir.
2012); see also Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947,
954 (9th Cir. 2002).
Statement of Facts
facts of the case are set forth in detail in the transcript
of proceedings and only briefly summarized here. Plaintiff
was 23 years old on the amended alleged date of onset, which
the regulations define as a younger individual. AR 109;
see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563. She attended school
through the 10th grade and can communicate in English. AR 42,
90, 276, 278. Plaintiff has no past relevant work. AR 42.
The ALJ's Findings
determined that Plaintiff was not under a disability within
the meaning of the Act at any time from April 1, 2015 (the
amended alleged onset date) through April 13, 2017 (the date
the ALJ issued his decision). AR 44.
step one , the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged
onset date (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1571 et
seq.). AR 32.
step two , the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: personality disorder, cannabis use
disorder, depression, and general anxiety disorder ...