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Destiny B. v. Saul

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

December 16, 2019

DESTINY B., Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          Mary Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff proceeds through counsel in her appeal of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Child's Disability Benefits (CDB) 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.


         Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1996.[1] She has a high school diploma and some coursework in medical office administration, and has worked as a childcare assistant and customer service representative. (AR 48-52, 243, 280.)

         Plaintiff applied for SSI and CDB in November 2015. (AR 211-16, 222-25.) Those applications were denied and Plaintiff timely requested a hearing. (AR 122-44.)

         On October 10, 2017, ALJ Glenn G. Meyers held a hearing, taking testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR 34-72.) On April 26, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (AR 15-28.) Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on February 25, 2019 (AR 1-6), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to this Court.


         The Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         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 February 15, 2014, the alleged onset date. (AR 17.) At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found severe Plaintiff's diabetes mellitus, disorder of the gastrointestinal system versus ovarian cysts, depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, right foot and ankle osteopenia, congenital foot anomalies, and osteoarthrosis. (AR 17-19.) Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the criteria of a listed impairment. (AR 19-20.)

         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 capable of performing sedentary work with additional limitations: she can perform unskilled, repetitive, routine tasks in two-hour increments. She can have no contact with the public, can work in proximity to but not in coordination with co-workers, and can have occasional contact with supervisors. She can occasionally stoop, squat, crouch, crawl, kneel, and climb ramps and stairs, but cannot climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds. She would be absent from work eight time per year, but would not have any absences in the first 90 days of work, and would be off-task at work 8% of a workday but could still meet the minimum production requirements of the job. (AR 21.) With that assessment, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform any of her past relevant work. (AR 26-27.)

         If a claimant demonstrates an inability to perform 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 found Plaintiff capable of transitioning to other representative occupations, such as bench hand, table worker, and masker. (AR 27-28.)

         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). 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 there is more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision, the Court must uphold that decision. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002).

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in (1) discounting her subjective symptom testimony and her mother's lay statement; (2) discounting the opinion of consultative examiner Morgan Liddell, M.D.; and (3) assessing her RFC. The Commissioner argues that the ...

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