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 No. 14, 15. Attorney D. James Tree represents Deneca J.
(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. 7. After reviewing the
administrative record and the briefs filed by the parties,
the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment.
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on
February 10, 2017, alleging disability since February 1,
2016, due to PTSD, major depressive disorder, learning
disability/reading disorder, obesity, personality disorder,
and ADHD. Tr. 130-31. The application was denied initially
and upon reconsideration. Tr. 156-64, 168-74. Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) Stewart Stallings held a hearing on April 18,
2018, Tr. 666-715, and issued an unfavorable decision on May
31, 2018, Tr. 15-25. Plaintiff requested review from the
Appeals Council and the Appeals Council denied the request on
July 31, 2018. Tr. 1-5. The ALJ's May 2018 decision
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
September 26, 2018. ECF No. 1, 4.
was born in 1981 and was 35 years old as of the filing of her
application. Tr. 24. She was in some special education
classes as a child and dropped out of high school in the
tenth grade when she became pregnant. Tr. 492. She was unable
to obtain her GED. Tr. 594, 701. She has never worked, other
than some babysitting in 2001. Tr. 44, 308. Her mental health
issues significantly worsened following Child Protective
Services intervening to remove her children from her custody.
Tr. 371, 376, 690.
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. § 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. § 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. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193-94 (9th Cir. 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. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).
25, 2018, 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 February 10, 2017, the application
date. Tr. 18.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: substance abuse, depression, anxiety,
post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline ...