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 his application for Disability Insurance
Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 401-434, and his application for Supplemental Security
Income under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C.
§1381-1383F. See Administrative Record (AR) at
1, 16, 27. 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 his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income on September 15, 2015.
See AR 16, 228-239, 241-255. His initial alleged
onset date of disability was January 1, 2009, which he later
amended to March 1, 2015. AR 16, 47, 228. Plaintiff's
applications were initially denied on January 21, 2016,
see AR 141-149, and on reconsideration on March 15,
2016. See AR 153-164. Plaintiff then filed a request
for a hearing on March 27, 2016. AR 165-66.
hearing with Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Mark Kim occurred on May 2, 2017. AR 16, 44, 46. On July 18,
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 13-27. On April 9, 2018, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review, AR 1-7, thus
making the ALJ's ruling the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
7, 2018, Plaintiff timely filed the present action
challenging the denial of benefits. ECF No. 3. 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 his 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