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Draper v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 27, 2016

Michael D. Draper, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Defendant.


David G. Campbell United States District Judge

Plaintiff Michael D. Draper seeks review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security 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 Draper has not identified any reversible error, the Court will affirm.

I. Background.

Draper is a 57-year-old male who previously worked as an office machine servicer and kitchen helper. A.R. 23. Draper originally applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on November 26, 2007. A.R. 10. Draper asserted disability beginning February 15, 2006 and ending December 13, 2008. Id. The ALJ found that Draper was disabled during this period and awarded benefits. Id.

On October 19, 2011, Draper filed a second application, alleging disability beginning October 15, 2011. A.R. 10, 13. On October 28, 2013, an ALJ held a hearing on Draper’s application. A.R. 34-74. Draper appeared with his attorney and testified. A vocational expert also testified. Id.

On January 17, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision that Draper was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. A.R. 10-25. The decision proceeded according to the five-step evaluation process set forth at 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). At step one, the ALJ found that Draper met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016, and that he had not engaged in substantial gainful activity at any time between the alleged onset date and the date of decision. A.R. 13. At step two, the ALJ found that Draper had the following severe impairments: status post partial right nephrectomy, bipolar disorder, and cognitive disorder. Id. At step three, the ALJ determined that Draper did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled an impairment listed in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404. A.R. 14. At step four, the ALJ found that Draper had the residual functional capacity to perform:

medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) except the claimant can occasionally climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds, ramps, and stairs, as well as occasionally balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl. He should avoid concentrated exposure to nonweather related extreme heat, excessive vibration, dangerous machinery, and unprotected heights. Further, the claimant should avoid driving on the job. He retains the ability to perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. The claimant can engage in occasional interaction with the public, co-workers, and supervisors, and can still be in the vicinity of others. He should avoid sales work with the public. Finally, the claimant retains the ability to be employed in a low stress job, which is defined as only occasional and simple decision making required, occasional changes in the work setting, and no fast-paced production rate requirements.

A.R. 16. The ALJ found Draper unable to perform any of his past relevant work. A.R. 23. At step five, the ALJ concluded that, considering Draper’s age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that Draper could perform, including dining room attendant, cleaner/housekeeper, and hand packager. A.R. 24.

The Appeals Council denied Draper’s request for review of the hearing decision, making the ALJ’s decision the Commissioner’s final decision. A.R. 1. Draper seeks review in this Court, arguing that the ALJ’s decision improperly discounted his symptom testimony as well as the medical opinions of treating psychiatrist Hilda Amato, M.D., and examining psychologist Donald Nockleby, Ph.D.

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. Medical Source Evidence.

A. Dr. Hilda Amato.

Draper has been a patient of Dr. Amato since September 2012. A.R. 1227. On March 15, 2013, Dr. Amato completed a residual functional capacity questionnaire at Draper’s request. A.R. 1375-77. Dr. Amato opined that Draper was moderately limited in his ability to carry out simple instructions and to make judgments on simple work-related objectives. AR. 1375. She further opined that Draper was severely limited in his ability to understand and remember simple instructions, to interact appropriately with the public, supervisors, and co-workers, and to respond appropriately to work pressures. Id. She also indicated that Draper would be ...

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