United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge
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.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1967. She completed high school and some
college (AR 61, 289) and has no past relevant work (AR 74,
protectively filed an SSI application on September 25, 2014,
alleging disability beginning April 6, 2010. (AR
262.) The application was denied initially and
September 11, 2017, ALJ Ilene Sloan held a hearing, taking
testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR
55-81; see also AR 34-54 (earlier attempts at
hearings postponed).) On November 28, 2017, the ALJ issued a
decision finding plaintiff not disabled as of the September
2014 application date. (AR 15-26.)
timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review on December 27, 2018 (AR 1-5), making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to
Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
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 alleged onset date.
At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers
from a severe impairment. The ALJ found severe: major
depressive disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
dependent personality disorder; avoidant personality
disorder; unspecified anxiety disorder; borderline
personality disorder; history of histrionic personality
disorder; and cannabis dependence disorder. He found other
diagnoses/conditions non-severe, including amphetamine use
disorder, seizure disorder, antiphospholipid antibody
syndrome with resulting stroke, renal insufficiencies,
asthma, somatization disorder, and rule-out malingering. 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 listing.
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 a full range of work at
all exertional levels, but with the following non-exertional
limitations: understand, remember, and carry out short and
simple instructions; occasional and superficial contact with
the general public, co-workers, and supervisors; and adapt to
routine changes in the workplace setting. Plaintiff had no
past relevant work to consider at step four.
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 cleaner, hospital
housekeeper, and hand packager.
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 ...