United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING, IN PART, PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND REMANDING FOR ADDITIONAL
T. RODGERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE COURT are cross-motions for summary judgment.
ECF No. 13, 14. Attorney Dana Madsen represents Tina H.
(Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney Michael
Howard 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 GRANTS, IN PART, Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment; DENIES
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment; and
REMANDS the matter to the Commissioner for
additional proceedings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on
July 29, 2015, alleging disability since June 1, 2015, due to
degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid
arthritis, sciatica, and nerve damage in her shoulder. Tr.
419-20, 458. The application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Tr. 346-49, 351-53. Plaintiff filed a
concurrent application for Supplemental Security Income on
June 1, 2016. Tr. 423-30. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
Jesse Shumway held a hearing on May 17, 2017, Tr. 269-311,
and issued an unfavorable decision on July 21, 2017, Tr.
16-27. Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council.
Tr. 418. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on May 24, 2018. Tr. 1-6. The ALJ's July 2017
decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner,
which is appealable to the district court pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff filed this action for
judicial review on July 23, 2018. ECF No. 1.
was born in 1972 and was 42 years old as of her alleged onset
date. Tr. 25. She has a GED and completed some college
courses. Tr. 285. Her work history consisted primarily of dog
grooming. Tr. 285-86.
2015, Plaintiff was in a serious motorcycle accident,
resulting in several fractures and necessitating multiple
surgeries on her right shoulder. Tr. 286-87. She was in the
hospital for several weeks and was in a wheelchair for a
month. Tr. 1257. In the wake of her injuries and altered
physical capabilities, she began to experience depression and
anxiety. Tr. 856, 1060-61.
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 ALJ's determinations of law are reviewed
de novo, with deference to a reasonable
interpretation of the applicable 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; Morgan v.
Commissioner of Social Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599
(9th Cir. 1999). 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, 1229-1230 (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. 1988).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a);
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-142 (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 1098-1099.
This burden is met once a claimant establishes that a
physical or mental impairment prevents the claimant from
engaging in past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). If a claimant cannot perform
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. Commissioner of Social Sec. Admin., 359
F.3d 1190, 1193-1194 (2004). If a claimant cannot make an
adjustment to other work in the national economy, the
claimant will be found disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
21, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not
disabled as defined in the Social Security Act.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since June 1, 2015, the alleged onset date.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: chronic rotator cuff tears of both shoulders,
myofascial pain syndrome/fibromyalgia, obesity, lumbar spine
degenerative disc disease, schizophrenia, major depressive
disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and borderline
personality disorder. Id.
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments. Tr. 19-20.
assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)
and found she could perform sedentary exertion level work
with the following limitations:
she can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds or crawl;
she can perform other postural activities occasionally; she
can never reach overhead bilaterally and, with the right
upper extremity, can reach only occasionally in all other
directions; she can have no exposure to vibration or hazards
(i.e., unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts); she is
limited to unskilled and well-learned semi-skilled tasks in a
routine, predictable work environment with no more than
occasional changes; she can have only occasional contact with
the public, supervisors, and coworkers; and she would likely
be off task up to 5% of the workday.
four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to perform her past
relevant work as ...