United States District Court, D. Arizona
MICHELLE H. BURNS, Magistrate Judge.
Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Selahudin Selimovic's appeal from the Social Security Administration's final decision to deny his claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. After reviewing the administrative record and the arguments of the parties, the Court now issues the following ruling.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On July 18, 2008, Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income alleging disability beginning January 1, 2006. (Transcript of Administrative Record ("Tr.") at 17, 288-304.) His applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. at 144-46, 152-54.) Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge. (Tr. at 155.) Hearings were held on January 18, 2011 and June 30, 2011, (Tr. at 44-93, 94-143), and the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was disabled between January 1, 2006 and January 22, 2009, but that as of January 23, 2009, Plaintiff experienced medical improvement to such a degree that he was no longer disabled (Tr. at 12-43). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. at 1-6), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff then sought judicial review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court must affirm the ALJ's findings if the findings are supported by substantial evidence and are free from reversible legal error. See Reddick v. Chater , 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998); Marcia v. Sullivan , 900 F.2d 172, 174 (9th Cir. 1990). Substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla" and "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); see Reddick , 157 F.3d at 720.
In determining whether substantial evidence supports a decision, the Court considers the administrative record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence that detracts from the ALJ's conclusion. See Reddick , 157 F.3d at 720. "The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and for resolving ambiguities." Andrews v. Shalala , 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995); see Magallanes v. Bowen , 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). "If the evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing the [Commissioner's] conclusion, the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the [Commissioner]." Reddick , 157 F.3d at 720-21.
III. THE ALJ'S FINDINGS
In order to be eligible for disability or social security benefits, a claimant must demonstrate an "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 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). An ALJ determines a claimant's eligibility for benefits by following a five-step sequential evaluation:
(1) determine whether the applicant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity";
(2) determine whether the applicant has a medically severe impairment or combination of impairments;
(3) determine whether the applicant's impairment equals one of a number of listed impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges as so severe as to preclude the applicant from engaging in substantial gainful activity;
(4) if the applicant's impairment does not equal one of the listed impairments, determine whether the applicant is capable of performing his or her past relevant work;
(5) if the applicant is not capable of performing his or her past relevant work, determine whether the applicant is able to perform other work in the national economy in view of his age, education, and work experience.
See Bowen v. Yuckert , 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920). At the fifth stage, the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant can perform other substantial gainful work. See Penny v. Sullivan , 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th Cir. 1993).
At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2006 - the date Plaintiff became disabled. (Tr. at 21.) At step two, he found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments from January 1, 2006 through January 22, 2009: pain disorder of right leg, hypertension, posttraumatic stress disorder, and history of alcohol abuse. (Tr. at 21-22.) From January 1, 2006 through January 22, 2009, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments met listing 1.02A of 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 of the Commissioner's regulations. Thus, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was disabled between January 1, 2006 through January 22, 2009. (Tr. at 22-24.)
Beginning January 23, 2009, however, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 of the Commissioner's regulations. (Tr. at 24-25.) After consideration of the entire record, the ALJ found that beginning January 23, 2009, Plaintiff retained "the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) specifically as follows: the claimant can lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; he can stand and/or walk for four hours out of an eight-hour workday with regular breaks but not for more than one hour at a time; he can sit for six hours out of an eight-hour workday with regular breaks; he can occasionally bend, stoop, crouch, and kneel; he is restricted from crawling and balancing; he is prohibited from climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; he can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; he can occasionally operate foot controls with the left foot; he should avoid concentrated exposure to unprotected heights; he is limited to simple and repetitive tasks; and he can have no work involving more than occasional contact with coworkers and the public." (Tr. at 25-33.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff is unable to perform past relevant work, but found based on Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (Tr. at 33-34.) Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's disability ended on January 23, 2009. (Tr. at 34-35.)
In his brief, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to properly weigh medical source opinion evidence; and (2) failing to find that there were significant numbers of jobs available for him. Plaintiff ...