United States District Court, D. Arizona
Jeremy R. Deiman, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Defendant.
Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge.
Plaintiff Jeremy Deiman seeks review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”), which denied him disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under sections 216(i), 223(d), and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. Because the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) is supported by substantial evidence and is not based on legal error, the Commissioner’s decision is affirmed.
A. Factual Background
Deiman, a thirty-five-year-old male, has a General Equivalency Degree. Between 1999 and 2011, he worked over thirty short-term jobs in which he resigned or was terminated due to his inability to get along with coworkers and supervisors. (Doc. 16 at 2, 6.) He suffers from “mental illness with associated mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, suicide thoughts/attempts, and social interaction problems. (Id. at 2.)
B. Procedural History
On November 28, 2011, Deiman applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging disability beginning August 19, 2010. (A.R. 25.)On July 23, 2013, he appeared with his attorney and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. A vocational expert also testified.
On September 3, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision that Deiman was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The Appeals Council denied Deiman’s request for review of the hearing decision, making the ALJ’s decision the Commissioner’s final decision. On January 30, 2015, Deiman sought review by this Court.
II. Legal Standard
The district 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). 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). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and relevant evidence that a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion considering the record as a whole. Id. In determining whether substantial evidence supports a decision, the court must consider the record as a whole and may not affirm simply by isolating a “specific quantum of supporting evidence.” Id. As a general rule, “[w]here the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ’s decision, the ALJ’s conclusion must be upheld.” Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).
III. Five-Step Sequential Evaluation Process
To determine whether a claimant is disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act, the ALJ follows a five-step process. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). The claimant bears the burden of proof on the first four steps, but at step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999).
At the first step, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). If so, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. Id. At step two, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a “severe” medically determinable physical or mental impairment. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If not, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. Id. At step three, the ALJ considers whether the claimant’s impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals an impairment listed in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If so, the claimant is automatically found to be disabled. Id. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step four. At step four, the ALJ assesses the claimant’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) and determines whether the claimant is still capable of performing past relevant work. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If so, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. Id. If not, the ALJ proceeds to the fifth and final step, where he determines whether the claimant can perform any other work based on the claimant’s RFC, age, education, and work experience. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). If so, the claimant is not disabled. Id. If not, the claimant is disabled. Id.
At step one, the ALJ found that Deiman meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2012, and that he has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 1999. (A.R. 27.) At step two, the ALJ found that Deiman has the following severe impairments: major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and borderline personality disorder. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ determined that Deiman does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals an impairment listed in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404. (Id. at 30.)
At step four, the ALJ found that Deiman has the RFC to perform “a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: The claimant can interact with coworkers and supervisors, but is precluded from jobs requiring public contact. He is limited to simple, routine and unskilled work.” (Id. at 31-32.) The ALJ further found that Deiman has no past relevant work. (Id. at 36.) At step five, the ALJ concluded that, considering Deiman’s age, ...