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. 10, 17). 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 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§
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. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v),
416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v). At step one, the Commissioner considers
the claimant's work activity. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 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. §§ 404.1520(b), 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. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii),
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. §§ 404.1520(c), 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.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 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. §§
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.
§§ 404.1545(a)(1), 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. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 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.
§§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(f). If the claimant is
incapable of performing such work, the analysis proceeds to
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. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 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. §§
404.1520(g)(1), 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. §§ 404.1560(c)(2),
416.960(c)(2); Beltran v. Astrue, 700 F.3d 386, 389
(9th Cir. 2012).
19, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for Title II
disability insurance benefits. Tr. 245-46. On June 26, 2015,
Plaintiff filed an application for Title XVI supplemental
security income benefits. Tr. 239-44. Both applications
alleged an amended onset date of July 31, 2014. Tr. 42. The
applications were denied initially, Tr. 155-62, and on
reconsideration, Tr. 166-87. Plaintiff appeared at a hearing
before an administrative law ...