United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER RULING ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
SALVADOR MENDOZA, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Kenneth B. appeals the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ)
denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) benefits. He alleges that the ALJ (1) improperly
rejected the opinions of an examining physician, (2)
improperly discounted Plaintiff's symptom testimony, (3)
improperly discounted the testimony of Plaintiff's wife,
and (4) improperly found that Plaintiff could perform his
past relevant work at step four. The Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) asks the Court to
affirm the ALJ's Decision.
the Court, without oral argument, are the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment, ECF Nos. 10, 11. Upon
reviewing the administrative record, the parties' briefs,
and the relevant authority, the Court is fully informed. For
the reasons set forth below, the Court finds no error in the
ALJ's determination that Plaintiff was not entitled to
benefits. Accordingly, the Court grants the
Commissioner's motion and denies Plaintiff's motion.
applied for SSI benefits on April 16, 2018. AR
The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application on
October 28, 2016. AR 119-22. Plaintiff requested, and the
Commissioner denied, reconsideration. AR 123-28. At
Plaintiff's request, a hearing was held before ALJ
Carolina Siderius. AR 62-91. The ALJ denied Plaintiff
benefits on March 14, 2018. AR 27-43. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review on November 28,
2018. AR 1-7. Plaintiff then appealed to this Court under 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). ECF No. 1.
“disability” is defined as the “inability
to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The decision-maker uses a
five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether
a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
one assesses whether the claimant is engaged in substantial
gainful activities. If he is, benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If he is not, the
decision-maker proceeds to step two.
two assesses whether the claimant has a medically severe
impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If the claimant does
not, the disability claim is denied. If the claimant does,
the evaluation proceeds to the third step.
three compares the claimant's impairment with a number of
listed impairments acknowledged by the Commissioner to be so
severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 404 Subpt. P App. 1, 416.920(d). If
the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments,
the claimant is conclusively presumed to be disabled. If the
impairment does not, the evaluation proceeds to the fourth
four assesses whether the impairment prevents the claimant
from performing work he has performed in the past by
examining the claimant's residual functional capacity, or
RFC. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). If the
claimant is able to perform his previous work, he is not
disabled. If the claimant cannot perform this work, the
evaluation proceeds to the fifth step.
five, the final step, assesses whether the claimant can
perform other work in the national economy in view of his
age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(f), 416.920(f); see Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137 (1987). If the claimant can, the disability claim is
denied. If the claimant cannot, the disability claim is
burden of proof shifts during this sequential disability
analysis. The claimant has the initial burden of establishing
a prima facie case of entitlement to disability benefits.
Rhinehart v. Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th Cir.
1971). The burden then shifts to the Commissioner to show (1)
the claimant can perform other substantial gainful activity,
and (2) that a “significant number of jobs exist in the
national economy, ” which the claimant can perform.
Kail v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1496, 1498 (9th Cir.
1984). A claimant is disabled only if his impairments are of
such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous
work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experiences, engage in any other substantial gainful work
which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity. AR 32.
two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had three medically
determinable severe impairments: post-traumatic stress
disorder, depression, and general anxiety disorder with panic
features. Id. The ALJ did not find that
Plaintiff's antisocial personality disorder or obsessive
compulsive disorder were severe impairments, and found that
Plaintiff's complaint of back pain was not a medically