United States District Court, D. Arizona
Michelle H. Bums United States Magistrate Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff Michael Troy Kelly's appeal
from the Social Security Administration's final decision
to deny his claim for disability insurance benefits. After
reviewing the administrative record and the arguments of the
parties, the Court now issues the following ruling.
filed an application for disability insurance benefits
alleging disability beginning April 1, 2010. (Transcript of
Administrative Record (“Tr.”) at 16, 179-87.) His
application was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr.
at 16, 64-91.) Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing
before an administrative law judge, and a hearing was held on
May 9, 2013. (Tr. at 16, 32-63.) On June 28, 2013, the ALJ
issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled.
(Tr. at 13-31.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review (Tr. at 1-7), making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff
then sought judicial review of the ALJ's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court must affirm the ALJ's findings if the findings are
supported by substantial evidence and are free from
reversible legal error. See Reddick v. Chater, 157
F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998); Marcia v.
Sullivan, 900 F.2d 172, 174 (9th Cir. 1990).
Substantial evidence means “more than a mere
scintilla” and “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971); see Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720.
determining whether substantial evidence supports a decision,
the Court considers the administrative record as a whole,
weighing both the evidence that supports and the evidence
that detracts from the ALJ's conclusion. See
Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720. “The ALJ is responsible
for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical
testimony, and for resolving ambiguities.” Andrews
v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995); see Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750
(9th Cir. 1989). “If the evidence can
reasonably support either affirming or reversing the
[Commissioner's] conclusion, the court may not substitute
its judgment for that of the [Commissioner].”
Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720-21.
THE ALJ'S FINDINGS
order to be eligible for disability or social security
benefits, a claimant must demonstrate 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). An ALJ
determines a claimant's eligibility for benefits by
following a five-step sequential evaluation:
(1) determine whether the applicant is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity”;
(2) determine whether the applicant has a medically severe
impairment or combination of impairments;
(3) determine whether the applicant's impairment equals
one of a number of listed impairments that the Commissioner
acknowledges as so severe as to preclude the applicant from
engaging in substantial gainful activity;
(4) if the applicant's impairment does not equal one of
the listed impairments, determine whether the applicant is
capable of performing his or her past relevant work;
(5) if the applicant is not capable of performing his or her
past relevant work, determine whether the applicant is able
to perform other work in the national economy in view of his
age, education, and work experience.
See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987)
(citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920). At the
fifth stage, the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner
to show that the claimant can perform other substantial
gainful work. See Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956
(9th Cir. 1993).
one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since April 1, 2010 - the
alleged onset date - through his date last insured of
December 31, 2012. (Tr. at 18.) At step two, she found that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lumbar
degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, spondylosis and
radiculopathy, history of diverticulitis, colostomy and
takedown, hernia repair, a major depressive disorder, and
anxiety disorder. (Tr. at 18.) At step three, the ALJ stated
that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 of the
Commissioner's regulations. (Tr. at 19-20.) After
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ found that,
through the date last insured, Plaintiff retained “the
residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined
in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except that the claimant is limited to
performing the mental demands of simple work
tasks.” (Tr. at 20-24.) The ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was unable to perform past relevant work, but
through the date last insured, considering Plaintiff's
age, education, work experience, and residual functional
capacity, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers
in the national economy that Plaintiff could have performed.
(Tr. at 24-25.) Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff
was not under a disability from April 1, 2010, through
December 31, 2012, the date last insured. (Tr. at 25.)