United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT; DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
STANLEY A. BASTIAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment,
ECF No. 11, and Defendant's Cross-Motion for Summary
Judgment, ECF No. 12. The motions were heard without oral
argument. Plaintiff is represented by David L. Lybbert;
Defendant is represented by Assistant United States Attorney
Timothy Durkin and Special Assistant United States Attorney
Franco L. Becia.
14, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for Title II
disability insurance benefits as well as a Title XVI
application for supplemental security income. Plaintiff's
application was denied initially and on reconsideration. On
July 14, 2017, a video hearing was held before an ALJ.
Plaintiff testified, as did a reviewing medical expert, Dr.
Robert Thompson M.D., and a vocational expert. The ALJ issued
a decision on January 18, 2018, finding that Plaintiff was
not disabled. Plaintiff timely requested review by the
Appeals Council, which denied the request. The Appeals
Council's denial of review makes the ALJ's decision
the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff filed a
timely appeal with the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of Washington. The matter is before this
Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
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 his impairments are of such
severity that the claimant is not only unable to do his
previous work, but cannot, considering claimant's age,
education, and work experiences, engage in any other
substantial gainful work which 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 person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4); Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987).
Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activities? 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). Substantial gainful activity is
work done for pay and requires compensation above the
statutory minimum. Id.; Keyes v. Sullivan,
894 F.2d 1053, 1057 (9th Cir. 1990). If the claimant is
engaged in substantial activity, benefits are denied. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If he is not, the ALJ proceeds to
Does the claimant have a medically-severe impairment or
combination of impairments? 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). If
the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination
of impairments, the disability claim is denied. A severe
impairment is one that lasted or must be expected to last for
at least 12 months and must be proven through objective
medical evidence. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1509. If the
impairment is severe, the evaluation proceeds to the third
Does the claimant's impairment meet or equal one of the
listed impairments acknowledged by the Commissioner to be so
severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity? 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(d); 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpt. P. App. 1. If
the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments,
the claimant is conclusively presumed to be disabled.
Id. If the impairment is not one conclusively
presumed to be disabling, the evaluation proceeds to the
fourth step. Before considering Step 4, the ALJ must first
determine the claimant's residual functional capacity. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). An individual's residual
functional capacity is his ability to do physical and mental
work activities on a sustained basis despite limitations from
Does the impairment prevent the claimant from performing work
he has performed in the past? 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).
If the claimant is able to perform his previous work, he is
not disabled. Id. If the claimant cannot perform
this work, the evaluation proceeds to the fifth and final
Is the claimant able to perform other work in the national
economy in view of his age, education, and work experience?
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g). The initial burden of proof
rests upon the claimant to establish a prima facie case of
entitlement to disability benefits. Tackett v.
Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999). This burden
is met once a claimant establishes that a physical or mental
impairment prevents him from engaging in his previous
occupation. Id. At step five, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to show that the claimant can perform other
substantial gainful activity. Id.
Commissioner's determination will be set aside only when
the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or are not
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
Matney v. Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1018 (9th Cir.
1992) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)). Substantial evidence
is “more than a mere scintilla, ” Richardson
v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971), but “less
than a preponderance.” Sorenson v. Weinberger,
514 F.2d 1112, 1119 n.10 (9th Cir. 1975). Substantial
evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401. The Court must uphold
the ALJ's denial of benefits if the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of
which supports the decision of the administrative law judge.
Batson v. Barnhart, 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir.