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Friday S. v. Saul

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

September 23, 2019

FRIDAY S., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 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 Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) after a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Having considered the ALJ's decision, the administrative record (AR), and all memoranda of record, the Court recommends that this matter be AFFIRMED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1962.[2] She graduated from high school and has some college education, and previously worked as a manufacturing buyer. (AR 44, 204.)

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB in June 2016, alleging disability beginning April 10, 2016. (AR 150-51.) Her application was denied at the initial level and on reconsideration, and she timely requested a hearing. (AR 86-88, 90-92, 96-97.)

         On October 23, 2017, ALJ Malcolm Ross held a hearing, taking testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR 32-62.) On February 28, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (AR 15-27.)

         Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on November 14, 2018 (AR 1-6), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff now appeals that decision 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 worked since the alleged onset date. (AR 17.) At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found severe Plaintiff's seronegative rheumatoid arthritis, polyarticular arthralgia, and left shoulder abnormality. (AR 17-18.) Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the criteria of a listed impairment. (AR 18-19.)

         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 demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The ALJ found Plaintiff able to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), with additional limitations: she cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can frequently stoop, kneel, and crouch. She can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, and crawl. She can occasionally reach overhead with the left, non-dominant arm, and can frequently handle and finger. She can tolerate occasional exposure to extreme cold, heat, vibrations, and hazards such as heights and machinery. (AR 19.) With that assessment, the ALJ found Plaintiff able to perform her past relevant work as a buyer (purchaser). (AR 25.)

         The ALJ also proceeded in the alternative to step five of the sequential evaluation, where the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate 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 sales promotion representative, administrative clerk, general clerk, industrial order clerk, order clerk, and procurement clerk. (AR 26-27.)

         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). 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 there is more than one rational ...


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