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Wringer v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 27, 2016

Jerome Wayne Wringer, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W Colvin, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jerome Wringer seeks review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying his application for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits. 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.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Wringer is 67 years old and has an eleventh grade education. (A.R. 18.) He last worked as an automobile service manager. (Doc. 12 at 1.) The business closed in 2008, and he has not worked since that time. (A.R. 21.) Wringer reported looking for work in March 2012, immediately before he applied for benefits. (Id. at 761.) He alleges disability due to chronic back pain, nerve damage, hernia, irregular heartbeat, left eye blindness, sleep apnea, and anxiety. (Id. at 18.)

         B. Procedural History

         On March 16, 2012, Wringer applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging disability beginning March 1, 2008. (Id. at 11.) On May 14, 2014, he appeared with his attorney and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. A vocational expert also testified.

         On July 25, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision that Wringer was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The Appeals Counsel denied Wringer’s request for review of the hearing decision, making the ALJ’s decision the Commissioner’s final decision. On December 16, 2015, Wringer 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 Wringer meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2013, and that he has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 12, 2008. (A.R. 13.) At step two, the ALJ found that Wringer has the following severe impairments: left ear decreased hearing, blindness in left eye, depression, mild cognitive impairment, and anxiety. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ determined that Wringer does not have an impairment or ...


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