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Charity W. v. Saul

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

September 19, 2019

CHARITY W., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL

          MARY ALICE THEILER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff proceeds through counsel in her appeal of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied plaintiff’s application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) after a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Having considered the ALJ’s decision, the administrative record (AR), and all memoranda of record, this matter is AFFIRMED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1977.[2] She completed high school and two years of college, and previously worked as a security guard and child monitor. (AR 32, 48, 54-55, 236.)

         Plaintiff protectively filed an SSI application on October 16, 2015, alleging disability beginning February 15, 2012. (AR 209.) It was denied initially and on reconsideration.

         On November 2, 2017, ALJ Allen Erickson held a hearing, taking testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR 40-92.) On March 21, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled from the application date through the date of the decision. (AR 15-34.)

         Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s request for review on January 19, 2019 (AR 1), making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to this Court.

         JURISDICTION

         The Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ’s decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         DISCUSSION

         The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2000). At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is gainfully employed. The ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date. At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff’s generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, major depressive disorder, lumbar degenerative disc disease and degenerative joint disease, and right shoulder tendonitis severe. Step three asks whether a claimant’s impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff’s impairments did not meet or equal the criteria of a listed impairment.

         If a claimant’s impairments do not meet or equal a listing, the Commissioner must assess residual functional capacity (RFC) and determine at step four whether the claimant has demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The ALJ found plaintiff able to perform light work, with lifting and carrying twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; standing and/or walking and sitting for at least six hours in an eight-hour workday; able to occasionally climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds and crawl; able to frequently, but not continuously perform bilateral handing and fingering and to occasionally perform overhead reaching with the dominant right arm; able to tolerate occasional exposure to vibration and extremely cold temperatures; able to understand, remember, and apply short, simple instructions, while performing routine tasks, not in a fast-paced production-type environment, making only simple decisions; and able to have no more than occasional interaction with the general public and co-workers. With that assessment, the ALJ found plaintiff unable to perform past work.

         If a claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant work, or has no past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate at step five that the claimant retains the capacity to make an adjustment to work that exists in significant levels in the national economy. With the assistance of the VE, the ALJ found plaintiff capable of performing other jobs, such as work as a lab sample carrier, garment sorter, and mail clerk.

         This Court’s review of the ALJ’s decision is limited to whether the decision is in accordance with the law and the findings supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th Cir. 1993). Accord Marsh v. Colvin, 792 F.3d 1170, 1172 (9th Cir. 2015) (“We will set aside a denial of benefits only if the denial is unsupported by substantial evidence in the administrative record or is based on legal error.”) Substantial evidence means more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). If ...


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