United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MICHELLE L. PETERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks review of the denial of his application for
Supplemental Security Income. Plaintiff contends the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred in
assessing the medical evidence, and in discounting his
testimony and the lay testimony. (Dkt. # 14 at 2.) As
discussed below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's
final decision and DISMISSES the case with prejudice.
was born in 1956, has a high school diploma and a year of
college education, and previously worked as a commercial
fisherman and more recently worked on his own farm. AR at 45,
193, 673-74. Plaintiff's income records last show gainful
employment in 1995, but Plaintiff reports working until 2005.
Id. at 185, 193.
October 2012, Plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging
disability as of December 31, 2005. AR at 174-80.
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on
reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing.
Id. at 96-99, 103-06, 111-13. After the ALJ
conducted a hearing on September 16, 2014 (id. at
40-68), the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled. Id. at 19-34. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review (id. at 1-6), and
Plaintiff sought judicial review. The U.S. District Court for
the Western District of Washington reversed the ALJ's
decision and remanded the case for further administrative
proceedings. Id. at 733-43.
different ALJ held a hearing on April 13, 2018 (AR at
663-99), and subsequently issued a decision finding Plaintiff
not disabled. Id. at 632-53. Utilizing the
five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has worked since his 2012 application
date, but never reported his income and therefore it cannot
be determined whether his work constitutes substantial
gainful activity. Thus, the ALJ continued on with the
sequential evaluation process.
Step two: Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease, chronic
pain syndrome, migraines, left shoulder osteoarthritis and
tendonitis, adhesive capsulitis and rotator cuff impingement
syndrome status post manipulation under anesthesia, status
post aneurysm, major depressive disorder, and mild cognitive
disorder are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the
requirements of a listed impairment.
RFC: Plaintiff can perform medium work with additional
limitations: he can frequently climb, balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl. He can frequently reach in all directions
bilaterally. He must avoid concentrated exposure to vibration
and hazards. He is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks consistent with unskilled work. He is limited to
low-stress work, which is defined as work requiring few
decisions/changes. He can have no public contact and only
superficial contact with coworkers and occasional contact
Step four: Plaintiff has no past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform,
Plaintiff is not disabled.
Id. at 632-53.
now appeals the final decision of the Commissioner to this
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits when
the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 (9th Cir.
2005). As a general principle, an ALJ's error may be
deemed harmless where it is “inconsequential to the
ultimate nondisability determination.” Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1115 (9th Cir. 2012) (cited
sources omitted). The Court looks to “the record as a
whole to determine whether the error alters the outcome of
the case.” Id.
evidence” is more than a scintilla, less than a
preponderance, and 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);
Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir.
1989). The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility,
resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving any
other ambiguities that might exist. Andrews v.
Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). While the
Court is required to examine the record as a whole, it may
neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for
that of the Commissioner. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278
F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). When the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, it is
the Commissioner's conclusion that must be upheld.
The ALJ Did Not Err in Assessing the Medical
challenges the ALJ's assessment of a number of medical
opinions, each of which the Court will address in turn.