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. 13, 14. Attorney Dana Chris Madsen represents Stacie
B. (Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney
Michael Sinclair Howard represents the Commissioner of Social
Security (Defendant). The parties have consented to proceed
before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 9. 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 19, 2015, alleging disability since 1999,
to anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia, depression, and
diabetes. Tr. 84. The application was denied initially and
upon reconsideration. Tr. 137-40, 145-47. Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Marie Palachuk held a hearing on May 25, 2017,
Tr. 41-73, and issued an unfavorable decision on September
12, 2017, Tr. 16-32. Plaintiff requested review from the
Appeals Council and the Appeals Council denied the request on
June 22, 2018. Tr. 1-6. The ALJ's September 2017 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
August 15, 2018. ECF No. 1, 4.
was born in 1963 and was 51 years old as of the filing of her
application. Tr. 30. She dropped out of high school in the
11th grade and obtained her GED. Tr. 55, 322. She worked a
number of sporadic jobs, the longest being working in a
window and door factory for two years in the 1990s. Tr. 233,
322. In the late 1990s she suddenly developed depression and
anxiety, which she has described as a chemical imbalance. Tr.
408, 444. She eventually took a voluntary layoff from her
job, and moved in with her parents. Tr. 408. After her
mother's death in 1998, she and her father continued to
reside together, caring for one another. Id.
Plaintiff has not worked since 1999. Tr. 322.
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).
September 12, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Social Security
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since February 19, 2015, the application
date. Tr. 19.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: osteoarthritis of the cervical spine,
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, obesity, major
depressive disorder, and social phobia. 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. 19-22.
assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)
and found she could perform a restricted range of light
exertional work, with the following specific limitations:
The claimant can occasionally lift and carry a maximum of 20
pounds and can frequently lift and carry a maximum of 10
pounds. She can stand and walk for a total of four hours in
an eight-hour workday with nor1mal breaks and alternate
between sitting and standing at 60-90 minute intervals. She
can frequently reach overhead bilaterally. She can
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl and climb
ramps and stairs. She can never climb ladders, ropes or
scaffolds. She can never have concentrated exposure to
extreme cold or industrial vibration, and she can never have
exposure to hazards. She can understand, remember and carry
out simple, routine and repetitive tasks and maintain
attention and concentration for the two-hour intervals
between regularly scheduled breaks. She can never perform
work involving fast-paced production (defined as assembly