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Brandon F. v. Saul

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

December 4, 2019

BRANDON F., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL

          Mary Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff proceeds through counsel in his 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.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1990.[1] He completed high school and previously worked as a dishwasher. (AR 39, 42.)

         Plaintiff protectively filed an SSI application on September 3, 2015, alleging disability beginning June 20, 2013. (AR 244.) The application was denied initially and on reconsideration.

         On August 7, 2017, ALJ Malcolm Ross held a hearing, taking testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR 36-69.) On June 20, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. (AR 15-29.)

         Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on March 28, 2019 (AR 1), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner 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 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 the following impairments severe: adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood; post-traumatic stress disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; major depressive disorder, recurrent, moderate; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; and degenerative disc disease with grade 1 spondylolisthesis. 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 a listing.

         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 has demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The ALJ found plaintiff able to perform medium work, with the following limitations: frequent crouching and crawling; occasional exposure to hazards such as heights and machinery; occasional interaction with the public, co-workers, and supervisors; work that is simple, routine, and repetitive; work that is quota-based, rather than production-paced; and few, if any, work place changes. With that assessment, the ALJ found plaintiff able to perform his past relevant work.

         If a 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 also found plaintiff capable of performing other jobs, such as work as a night cleaner, laundry worker, and hand packager. He further found that, if limited to light work, plaintiff would be able to perform jobs such as bakery worker and office helper.

         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). 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 ...


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