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Reimer v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 29, 2014

David Benjamin Reimer, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ORDER

G. MURRAY SNOW, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is the appeal of Plaintiff David Benjamin Reimer, which challenges the Social Security Administration's decision to deny benefits. (Doc. 24.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court affirms that determination.

BACKGROUND

In January 2012, David Benjamin Reimer filed a Title II application for benefits with the Social Security Administration ("SSA") alleging a disability onset date of August 20, 2010. (R. at 11.) Reimer's application was denied both initially and upon reconsideration. ( Id. ) An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing and heard testimony in April 2013. ( Id. ) In evaluation whether Reimer was disabled, the ALJ undertook the five-step sequential evaluation for determining disability.[1] (R. at 11-24.)

The SSA had already denied a previous application by Reimer in 2009, alleging an onset date in October 2007. (R. at 11.) The ALJ determined that the finding of non-disability for that previous period was final. ( Id. ) However, the ALJ held that Reimer rebutted the presumption of continuing non-disability by establishing changed circumstances. ( Id. )

At step one, the ALJ found that Reimer did not engage in substantial gainful activity from the alleged onset date through that date that he last met the insured status requirement on March 31, 2012. (R. at 13-14.) At step two, the ALJ determined that Reimer had the following severe impairments: generalized anxiety disorder, possible major depressive disorder, borderline intellectual functioning, expressive language disorder, and mild-moderate obesity. (R. at 14.) At step three, the ALJ determine that none of these impairments, either alone or in combination, met or equaled any of the SSA's listed impairments. (R. at 14-16.)

At that point, the ALJ made a determination of Reimer's residual functional capacity ("RFC"), [2] concluding that he could perform medium work with various limitations. (R. at 16-21.) At step four, the ALJ determined that Remier could not perform his past relevant work. (R. at 21-22.) At step five, the ALJ considered Reimer's age, education, and transferability of skills. (R. at 22.) The ALJ determined that there were a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Reimer could perform with his RFC. (R. at 22-23.)

Based on these determinations, the ALJ found that Reimer was not disabled and denied his application. (R. at 23.) The Appeals Council declined to review the decision. (R. at 1-3.) Reimer now appeals the ALJ's determination before this Court.

DISCUSSION

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A reviewing federal court will only address the issues raised by the claimant in the appeal from the ALJ's decision. See Lewis v. Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 517 n.13 (9th Cir. 2001). A federal court may set aside a denial of disability benefits only if that denial is either unsupported by substantial evidence or based on legal error. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is "more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance." Id. (quotation omitted). "Substantial evidence is relevant evidence which, considering the record as a whole, a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. (quotation omitted).

However, the ALJ is responsible for resolving conflicts in testimony, determining credibility, and resolving ambiguities. See Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). "When the evidence before the ALJ is subject to more than one rational interpretation, we must defer to the ALJ's conclusion." Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1198 (9th Cir. 2004). This is so because "[t]he [ALJ] and not the reviewing court must resolve conflicts in the evidence, and if the evidence can support either outcome, the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ." Matney v. Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted).

The claimant carries the initial burden of proving a disability in steps one through four of the analysis. See Swenson v. Sullivan, ...


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