United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
H. WHALEY SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment. ECF Nos. 11, 12. Plaintiff brings this action
seeking judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1383(c)(3) of the Commissioner of Social Security's final
decision, which denied her application for Supplemental
Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §1381-1383F. See Administrative
Record (AR) at 1-3, 15-23. After reviewing the administrative
record and briefs filed by the parties, the Court is now
fully informed. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment.
filed her application for Supplemental Security Income on
April 11, 2016. See AR 15, 136-41. She alleged
disability beginning on January 7, 1999.AR 136.
Plaintiff's application was initially denied on July 22,
2016, see AR 71-74, and on reconsideration on
October 11, 2016. See AR 78-80. Plaintiff then filed
a request for a hearing on December 9, 2016. AR 81-83.
hearing with Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Mark Kim occurred on November 1, 2017. AR 28, 30. On February
14, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision concluding that Plaintiff
was not disabled as defined in the Act and was therefore
ineligible for supplemental security income. AR 12-23. On
November 1, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review, AR 1-3, thus making the ALJ's ruling
the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20
C.F.R. § 416.1481. On December 27, 2018, Plaintiff
timely filed the present action challenging the denial of
benefits. ECF No. 1. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims are
properly before this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1383(c)(3) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process
Social Security Act defines disability 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.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(A). A claimant shall be determined to be
under a disability only if the claimant's impairments are
so severe that the claimant is not only unable to do his or
her previous work, but cannot, considering claimant's
age, education, and work experience, engage in any other
substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy.
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4); Lounsburry v. Barnhart,
468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006).
one inquires whether the claimant is presently engaged in
“substantial gainful activity.” 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(b). Substantial gainful activity is defined as
significant physical or mental activities done or usually
done for profit. 20 C.F.R. § 416.972. If the claimant is
engaged in substantial activity, he or she is not entitled to
disability benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 416.971. If not, the
ALJ proceeds to step two.
two asks whether the claimant has a severe impairment, or
combination of impairments, that significantly limits the
claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c). A severe impairment
is one that has lasted or is expected to last for at least
twelve months, and must be proven by objective medical
evidence. 20 C.F.R. § 416.909. If the claimant does not
have a severe impairment, or combination of impairments, the
disability claim is denied, and no further evaluative steps
are required. Otherwise, the evaluation proceeds to the third
three involves a determination of whether any of the
claimant's severe impairments “meets or
equals” one of the listed impairments acknowledged by
the Commissioner to be sufficiently severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§
416.920(d), 416.925, 416.926; 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpt. P.
App. 1 (“the Listings”). If the impairment meets
or equals one of the listed impairments, the claimant is
per se disabled and qualifies for benefits.
Id. If the claimant is not per se disabled,
the evaluation proceeds to the fourth step.
four examines whether the claimant's residual functional
capacity enables the claimant to perform past relevant work.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e)-(f). If the claimant can still
perform past relevant work, the claimant is not entitled to
disability benefits and the inquiry ends. Id.
five shifts the burden to the Commissioner to prove that the
claimant is able to perform other work in the national
economy, taking into account the claimant's age,
education, and work experience. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(g), 416.960(c). To meet this burden, the
Commissioner must 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, 388-89 (9th Cir. 2012).
Standard of Review
district court's review of a final decision of the
Commissioner is governed by 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) and
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The scope of review under these
sections is limited, and 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 1144, 1158-59 (9th Cir.
2012) (citing § 405(g)). In reviewing a denial of
benefits, a district court may not substitute its judgment
for that of the ALJ. Matney v. Sullivan, 981 F.2d
1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 1992). When the ALJ presents a
reasonable interpretation that is supported by the evidence,
it is not the role of the courts to second-guess it.
Rollins v. Massanari, 261 F.3d 853, 857 (9th Cir.
2001). Even if the evidence in the record is susceptible to
more than one rational interpretation, if inferences
reasonably drawn from the record support the ALJ's
decision, then the court must uphold that decision.
Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir.
2012); see also Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947,
954-59 (9th Cir. 2002).
Statement of Facts
facts of the case are set forth in detail in the transcript
of proceedings and only briefly summarized here. Plaintiff
was 51 years old when she filed her application for benefits.
AR 22, 136. She attended school through either the 10th or
11th grade and can ...