United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
EDWARD L. C., Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MICHELLE L. PETERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
seeks review of the denial of his application for
Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance
Benefits. Plaintiff contends the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) erred by failing to fully develop the
record, in evaluating the medical evidence, in evaluating
Plaintiff's testimony, in evaluating lay witness
evidence, in assessing Plaintiff's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”), and in his determination of the
step four finding. (Dkt. # 8.) As discussed below, the Court
AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final decision and DISMISSES
the case with prejudice.
was born in 1961, has the equivalent of a high school
education, and has worked as a combat medic and a personnel
specialist in the United States Army. AR at 40, 42, 44, 212.
Plaintiff was last gainfully employed in 2008. Id.
September 13, 2017, Plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging
disability as of January 1, 2009. AR at 38, 164.
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on
reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing.
Id. at 104-06, 108-10, 114-15. After the ALJ
conducted a hearing on July 31, 2018, the ALJ issued a
decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. Id. at
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful
activity during the period from his amended alleged onset
date of January 1, 2009 through his date last insured of
December 31, 2013.
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, obesity, and
degenerative joint disease of the bilateral shoulders (20 CFR
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the
requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff could perform light
work with the following limitations: he could occasionally
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; he could occasionally
crawl; he could have occasional exposure to vibration and to
extreme cold temperatures; and he could occasionally reach
Step four: Plaintiff was still capable of performing past
relevant work through the date last insured.
Step five: Because Plaintiff was still capable of performing
past relevant work, the ALJ did not address step five.
AR at 18-26.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
the ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final
decision. AR at 4-9. Plaintiff appealed the final decision of
the Commissioner to this Court. (Dkt. # 8.)
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits when
the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 (9th Cir.
2005). As a general principle, an ALJ's error may be
deemed harmless where it is “inconsequential to the
ultimate nondisability determination.” Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1115 (9th Cir. 2012) (cited
sources omitted). The Court looks to “the record as a
whole to determine whether the error alters the outcome of
the case.” Id.
evidence” is more than a scintilla, less than a
preponderance, and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir.
1989). The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility,
resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving any
other ambiguities that might exist. Andrews v.
Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). While the
Court is required to examine the record as a whole, it may
neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for
that of the Commissioner. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278
F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). When the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, it is
the Commissioner's conclusion that must be upheld.
The ALJ Did Not Err in Failing to Fully ...