United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION
AND DISMISSING THE CASE WITH PREJUDICE
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
seeks review of the denial of her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits, and requests remand for benefits or
further proceedings. Plaintiff contends the ALJ
constructively reopened Plaintiff's prior application,
erred in rejecting Plaintiff's symptom testimony, and
erred in evaluating four medical opinions. Dkt. 13. As
discussed below, the Court AFFIRMS the
Commissioner's final decision and
DISMISSES the case with prejudice.
is currently 56 years old, has at least a high school
education, and has worked as a contract specialist. Dkt. 11,
Admin. Record (“AR”) 59, 88. Plaintiff applied
for benefits on January 26, 2016, alleging disability as of
December 13, 2013. AR 77, 169-73. Plaintiff's application
was denied on initial review. AR 77-90. After the ALJ
conducted a hearing on October 2, 2018, the ALJ issued a
decision finding plaintiff not disabled. AR 15-24.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process,
Step one: Plaintiff did not engage in
substantial gainful activity during the period from her
alleged onset date of December 13, 2013, through her date
last insured of March 31, 2017.
Step two: Through the date last insured,
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: Depressive
disorder, anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), and spinal degenerative disc disease.
Step three: These impairments did not meet
or equal the requirements of a listed
Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”): Through the date last insured,
Plaintiff could perform medium work, with additional
limitations. She could engage in unskilled, repetitive,
routine tasks in two-hour increments. She could not have
contact with the public. She was capable of working in
proximity to, but not in coordination with, coworkers. She
could have occasional contact with supervisors. She would be
off-task 10 percent of the time, but could still meet minimum
production requirements of the job.
Step four: Through the date last insured,
Plaintiff could not perform past relevant work.
Step five: Through the date last insured,
considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and RFC, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers
in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform, so
Plaintiff was not disabled.
AR 15-24. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review, making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final decision. AR 1-3.
Court may set aside the Commissioner's denial of Social
Security benefits only if the ALJ's decision is based on
legal error or not supported by substantial evidence in the
record as a whole. Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d
664, 674 (9th Cir. 2017). The ALJ is responsible for
evaluating evidence, 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 ALJ. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). When the
evidence is susceptible to more than one interpretation, the
ALJ's interpretation must be upheld if rational.
Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 680-81 (9th Cir.
2005). This Court “may not reverse an ALJ's
decision on account of an error that is harmless.”
Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir.