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Ian H. v. Saul

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

January 14, 2020

IAN H., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL

          MARY ALICE THEILER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff proceeds through counsel in his appeal of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 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.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1977.[1] He has a GED and previously worked as a cashier, construction worker, and lumber handler. (AR 35, 55.)

         Plaintiff protectively filed an SSI application on May 24, 2016, alleging disability beginning June 1, 2008. (AR 192.) The application was denied initially and on reconsideration.

         On May 3, 2018, ALJ Stephanie Martz held a hearing, taking testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR 30-57.) On September 4, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. (AR 15-25.)

         Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on May 21, 2019 (AR 1), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to this Court.

         JURISDICTION

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

         DISCUSSION

         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 the application date. At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's degenerative disc disease lumbar spine, affective disorder, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and history of substance abuse severe. Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the criteria of a listed impairment.

         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 can perform past relevant work. The ALJ found plaintiff able to perform sedentary work, with additional limitations: sit about six hours and stand and/or walk two hours with regular breaks; unlimited ability to push/pull; frequently climb ramps and stairs; never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; frequently balance and kneel; occasionally stoop, crouch, and crawl; avoid concentrated exposure to wetness, vibration, and hazards; understand, remember, and carry out simple, routine tasks; occasional brief contact with coworkers, but should work independently, not on team or tandem tasks; should not work with the general public; and can adapt to occasional changes in the workplace. With that RFC, the ALJ found plaintiff unable to perform his past relevant work.

         If a claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant work, or has no 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 performing other jobs, such as work as a bench hand, table worker, and hand bander.

         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). Accord Marsh v. Colvin, 792 F.3d 1170, 1172 (9th Cir. 2015) (“We will set aside a denial of benefits only if the denial is unsupported by substantial evidence in the administrative record or is based on legal error.”) 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 ...


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