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Saul v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 29, 2015

Tim Alan Saul, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Defendant.

ORDER

JOHN Z. BOYLE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Tim Alan Saul seeks review of the Social Security Administration Commissioner's decision denying his social security benefits under the Social Security Act. The Court will affirm the Commissioner's decision. The ALJ denied disability for the entire period of time between January 4, 2011, and December 4, 2012, including January 4, 2011 through March 2012, and his decision is supported by substantial evidence and free from legal error.

I. Background

On January 22, 2011, Plaintiff filed an Application for a period of disability and disability insurance (DI) benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. (AR[1] 168-74.) In the Application, Plaintiff asserts disability beginning on January 4, 2011. (Id. at 168.) Plaintiff's Application was initially denied on June 1, 2011, and was denied upon reconsideration on February 17, 2012. (Id. at 104-07.) Subsequently, the Application was set for a hearing. (Id. at 134-57.) In a decision dated December 14, 2012, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Thomas Cheffins denied Plaintiff's Application for benefits. (Id. at 13-23.) On May 28, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. (Id. at 1-7.)

Having exhausted the administrative review process, on June 11, 2014, Plaintiff sought judicial review of the ALJ's decision by filing a Complaint in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Doc. 1.) On October 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Opening Brief, requesting the Court vacate the decision of the ALJ and grant his request for a closed period of benefits. (Doc. 16.) On December 18, 2014, Defendant filed a Response Brief in support of the Commissioner's decision. (Doc. 20.) On December 26, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Reply Brief. (Doc. 21.)

II. Legal Standards

a. Standard of Review

The Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), provides for judicial review of the Commissioner's disability benefits determinations. The Court may set aside the Commissioner's disability determination only if the determination is not supported by substantial evidence or is based on legal error. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007); Marcia v. Sullivan, 900 F.2d 172, 174 (9th Cir. 1990). "Substantial evidence' means more than a mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Lingenfelter v. Astrue, 504 F.3d 1028, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998).

In determining whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision, the Court considers the record as a whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and that which detracts from the ALJ's conclusions. Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720; Tylitzki v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 1411, 1413 (9th Cir. 1993). The ALJ is responsible for resolving conflicts, ambiguity, and determining credibility. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The Court "must uphold the ALJ's decision where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation." Andrews, 53 F.3d at 1039. "However, a reviewing court must consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of supporting evidence.'" Orn, 495 F.3d at 630 (quoting Robbins v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006)). The Court reviews only those issues raised by the party challenging the ALJ's decision. See Lewis v. Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 517 n.13 (9th Cir. 2001). Similarly, the Court reviews "only the reasons provided by the ALJ in the disability determination and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not rely." Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1010 (9th Cir. 2014).

b. Five-Step Evaluation Process

To be eligible for Social Security benefits, a claimant must show 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); see also Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999). A person is under a disability only:

if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.

42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).

The ALJ follows a five-step evaluation process to determine whether an applicant is disabled ...


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