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Shana F. v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

September 17, 2019

SHANA F., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS

          Theresa L. Fricke United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff has brought this matter for judicial review of Defendant's denial of her applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The parties have consented to have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. The Court affirms Defendant's decision to deny benefits.

         I. ISSUES FOR REVEW

         1. Did the ALJ err with respect to medical evidence in deciding step three, and step five?

         2. Did the ALJ err in assessing Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”)?

         3. Did the ALJ err in evaluating the vocational expert's testimony?[1]

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits, alleging an onset date of July 4, 2014. AR 22, 256-57. On January 12, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income, with the same alleged date of onset. AR 22, 258-63. Plaintiff's applications were denied. AR 22, 172-77, 179-85. A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) David Johnson on March 31, 2017. AR 42-89. The ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 19-34. The Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. AR 1-8. Plaintiff appealed to this Court and seeks an order reversing the ALJ's decision and remanding either for further administrative proceedings or an award of benefits. Dkt. 11, p. 13.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court will uphold an ALJ's decision unless: (1) the decision is based on legal error; or (2) the decision is not supported by substantial evidence. Revels v. Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 2017). Substantial evidence is “‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Biestek v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019). This requires “more than a mere scintilla” of evidence. Id.

         The Court must consider the administrative record as a whole. Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014). The Court is required to weigh both the evidence that supports, and evidence that does not support, the ALJ's conclusion. Id. The Court may not affirm the decision of the ALJ for a reason upon which the ALJ did not rely. Id. Only the reasons identified by the ALJ are considered in the scope of the Court's review. Id.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         The Commissioner uses a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine if a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The ALJ assesses the claimant's RFC to determine, at step four, whether the plaintiff can perform past relevant work, and if necessary, at step five to determine whether the plaintiff can adjust to other work. Kennedy v. Colvin, 738 F.3d 1172, 1175 (9th Cir. 2013). The ALJ has the burden of proof at step five to show that a significant number of jobs that the claimant can perform exist in the national economy. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1099 (9th Cir. 1999); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).

         In this case, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments at step two: Mood disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, headaches, vertigo, spinal abnormalities, hypothyroidism, right foot mass, and plantar fasciitis. AR 24-25. He found that Plaintiff was not able to perform past work, but that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform jobs available in the national economy. AR 32-33.

         A. The ALJ did not err in deciding step three ...


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