United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
O. RICE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
THE COURT are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment (ECF Nos. 12 and 13). Plaintiff is represented by
Dana Madsen. Defendant is represented by Justin L. Martin.
This matter was submitted for consideration without oral
argument. The Court has reviewed the administrative record
and the parties' completed briefing and is fully
informed. For the reasons discussed below, the Court
DENIES Plaintiff's motion and
GRANTS Defendant's motion.
Court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
district court's review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security is governed by 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The scope of review under § 405(g) is
limited: the Commissioner's decision will be disturbed
“only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or
is based on legal error.” Hill v. Astrue, 698
F.3d 1153, 1158-59 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing 42 U.S.C. §
405(g)). “Substantial evidence” means relevant
evidence that “a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. at 1159
(quotation and citation omitted). Stated differently,
substantial evidence equates to “more than a mere
scintilla[, ] but less than a preponderance.”
Id. (quotation and citation omitted). In determining
whether this standard has been satisfied, a reviewing court
must consider the entire record as a whole rather than
searching for supporting evidence in isolation. Id.
reviewing a denial of benefits, a district court may not
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d 1152, 1156 (9th Cir.
2001). If the evidence in the record “is susceptible to
more than one rational interpretation, [the court] must
uphold the ALJ's findings if they are supported by
inferences reasonably drawn from the record.”
Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir.
2012). Further, a district court “may not reverse an
ALJ's decision on account of an error that is
harmless.” Id. An error is harmless
“where it is inconsequential to the [ALJ's]
ultimate nondisability determination.” Id. at
1115 (quotation and citation omitted). The party appealing
the ALJ's decision generally bears the burden of
establishing that it was harmed. Shinseki v.
Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 409-10 (2009).
STEP SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS
claimant must satisfy two conditions to be considered
“disabled” within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. First, the claimant must be “unable 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). Second, the claimant's impairment must be
“of such severity that [he or she] is not only unable
to do [his or her] previous work[, ] but cannot, considering
[his or her] age, education, and work experience, engage in
any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in
the national economy.” 42 U.S.C. §§
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential analysis
to determine whether a claimant satisfies the above criteria.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v). At step
one, the Commissioner considers the claimant's work
activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the claimant
is engaged in “substantial gainful activity, ”
the Commissioner must find that the claimant is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b).
claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activities,
the analysis proceeds to step two. At this step, the
Commissioner considers the severity of the claimant's
impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the
claimant suffers from “any impairment or combination of
impairments which significantly limits [his or her] physical
or mental ability to do basic work activities, ” the
analysis proceeds to step three. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c).
If the claimant's impairment does not satisfy this
severity threshold, however, the Commissioner must find that
the claimant is not disabled. Id.
three, the Commissioner compares the claimant's
impairment to several impairments recognized by the
Commissioner to be so severe as to preclude a person from
engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the impairment is as severe or more
severe than one of the enumerated impairments, the
Commissioner must find the claimant disabled and award
benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d).
severity of the claimant's impairment does meet or exceed
the severity of the enumerated impairments, the Commissioner
must pause to assess the claimant's “residual
functional capacity.” Residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), defined generally as the claimant's
ability to perform physical and mental work activities on a
sustained basis despite his or her limitations (20 C.F.R.
§ 416.945(a)(1)), is relevant to both the fourth and
fifth steps of the analysis.
four, the Commissioner considers whether, in view of the
claimant's RFC, the claimant is capable of performing
work that he or she has performed in the past (“past
relevant work”). 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If
the claimant is capable of performing past relevant work, the
Commissioner must find that the claimant is not disabled. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(f). If the claimant is incapable of
performing such work, the analysis proceeds to step five.
five, the Commissioner considers whether, in view of the
claimant's RFC, the claimant is capable of performing
other work in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(v). In making this determination, the
Commissioner must also consider vocational factors such as
the claimant's age, education and work experience.
Id. If the claimant is capable of adjusting to other
work, the Commissioner must find that the claimant is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(g)(1). If the claimant is
not capable of adjusting to other work, the analysis
concludes with a finding that the claimant is disabled and is
therefore entitled to benefits. Id.
claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four
above. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th
Cir. 1999). If the analysis proceeds to step five, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner to establish that (1) the claimant
is capable of performing other work; and (2) such work
“exists in significant numbers in the national
economy.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.960(c)(2); Beltran
v. Astrue, 700 F.3d 386, 389 (9th Cir. 2012).
26, 2016, Plaintiff filed an application for Title XVI
supplemental security income benefits. Tr. 15, 35. The
application was denied initially, Tr. 98-106, and on
reconsideration, Tr. 110-16. Plaintiff appeared at a hearing
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on