United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. Campbell United States District Judge
Elizabeth Achtschin seeks review under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security which denied her disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income under sections 216(i), 223(d),
and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. Because
Achtschin has not identified any reversible error, the Court
is a 61-year-old female who previously worked as a cashier,
caregiver, and small business owner. A.R. 22. On January 28,
2014, Achtschin filed an application for disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income, alleging
disability beginning October 31, 2013. A.R. 12. On April 7,
2015, an ALJ held a hearing on the application. A.R. 30-61.
Achtschin appeared with her attorney and testified. A
vocational expert also testified. Id.
August 3, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision that Achtschin was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
A.R. 12-24. 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 Achtschin met
the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act
through September 30, 2017, and that she 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 Achtschin had the following severe
impairments: bipolar disorder and polysubstance abuse
disorder, in reported remission. A.R. 14. At step three, the
ALJ determined that Achtschin 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 Achtschin had
the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to
a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the
following nonexertional limitations: she can understand,
remember and carry out simple and repetitive tasks, make
simple work-related decisions, occasionally interact with
coworkers, supervisors and the public, within a routine work
environment with few, if any, changes.
A.R. 16. The ALJ found Achtschin unable to perform any of her
past relevant work. A.R. 22. At step five, the ALJ conclude
that, considering Achtschin's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, there were jobs existing in significant
numbers in the national economy that Achtschin could perform,
including hand packager, salvage laborer, and kitchen helper.
A.R. 23. The Appeals Council denied Achtschin's request
for review, making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final decision. A.R. 3.
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).
argues that the ALJ (1) improperly discounted her
credibility; (2) improperly discounted the opinion of
treating psychiatrist Dr. Lisa Parsons; and (3) improperly
adopted an RFC not presented to the vocational expert. Doc.
14 at 3.
evaluating the credibility of a claimant's testimony
regarding her symptoms, the ALJ is required to engage in a
two-step analysis. First, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant presented objective medical evidence of an
impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce the
symptoms alleged. Vasquez v. Astrue, 572 F.3d 586,
591 (9th Cir. 2009). Second, if there is no evidence of
malingering, the ALJ may reject the claimant's testimony
only by giving specific, clear, and convincing reasons.
reported that her mental impairments, including bipolar
disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, and
anxiety, caused marked limitations that would render her
unable to perform even sedentary work on a regular and
continuing basis. A.R. 17. The ALJ determined that
Achtschin's medically determinable impairments could
reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms, but
that her statements concerning the intensity, persistence,
and limiting effects ...