United States District Court, D. Arizona
Gregory A. Batterton, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Defendant.
Honorable G. Murray Snow, Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff Gregory A. Batterton's
(“Batterton”) appeal challenging the Social
Security Administration's decision to deny benefits.
(Doc. 13.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court affirms
was injured in a car accident when he was eighteen years old.
(Tr. 32.) For fourteen to fifteen years, he worked primarily
as a building maintenance repair man and a home painter. (Tr.
51.) However, over the last few years he was forced to reduce
the hours he worked due to the pain from his earlier
injuries. (Tr. 56.) He does not currently work, and he has
not been employed since February of 2013. (Tr. 49.)
April 2, 2012, Batterton filed an application for
supplemental security income, alleging a disability onset
date of April 1, 2011. (Tr. 222-31.) After Batterton's
claim was denied initially and on reconsideration, he
requested a hearing, which the Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ), Thomas Cheffins, held on May 20, 2013. (Tr. 40-73.)
During this hearing, Batterton and a vocational expert
testified. (Id.) On December 17, 2013, the ALJ
issued a decision finding Batterton not disabled. (Tr.
testified that he has symptoms as a result of his impairments
which prevent him from sustaining full-time employment. (Tr.
50-51.) Specifically, Batterton testified that he suffers
from the inability to lift his arms or look up and down;
shoulder pain which radiates down his right arm into his
fingers; back pain; neck pain, and chronic, debilitating
headaches. (Tr. 50-52, 54-55, 57.) He asserts that narcotic
pain medication causes him side effects such as dizziness,
nausea, bad dreams, not being able to sleep well,
constipation, and addiction. (Tr. 53.) Also, Batterton
testified that he is unable stand for longer than ten to
thirty minutes, after which he needs to lie down to get
relief from the resulting pain. (Tr. 57.)
evaluating whether Batterton was disabled, the ALJ undertook
the five-step sequential evaluation for determining
disability. (Tr. 25-26.) At step one, the ALJ
determined that Batterton meets the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act. (Tr. at 26.) At step
two, the ALJ determined that Batterton had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
(Tr. 26.) At step three, the ALJ determined that Batterton
suffered from the severe impairments of degenerative disk
disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, and chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”). (Tr. 27.)
At step four, the ALJ determined that none of these
impairments, either alone or in combination, met or equaled
any of the Social Security Administration's listed
impairments. (Tr. 28.)
point, the ALJ made a determination of Batterton's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”),
concluding that Batterton could “perform light work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b).” (Tr. 29.) In so
finding, the ALJ found that the claimant could perform work
that “involves no climbing of ladders, ropes or
scaffolds; no more than frequent balancing; no more than
occasional climbing of ramps or stairs[, ]. . . stooping,
crouching, kneeling and crawling[, ] and . . . bilateral
overhead reaching.” (Tr. 29.) The ALJ thus determined
at step four that Batterton did not retain the RFC to perform
any of his past relevant work. (Tr. 32-33.) The ALJ reached
step five, concluding in that Batterton could perform a
significant number of other jobs in the national economy
despite his limitations. (Tr. 33-34.) Given this analysis,
the ALJ concluded that Batterton was not disabled. (Tr. 34.)
Appeals Council declined to review the decision. (Tr. 1-6.)
Batterton filed the complaint underlying this action on
August 15, 2015, seeking this Court's review of the
ALJ's denial of benefits. (Doc. 13.) The matter is now
fully briefed. (Doc. 15, 16.)
Standard of Review
reviewing federal court will only address the issues raised
by the claimant in the appeal from the ALJ's decision.
See Lewis v. Apfel, 236 F.3d 503, 517 n.13 (9th Cir.
2001). A federal court may set aside a denial of disability
benefits only if that denial is either unsupported by
substantial evidence or based on legal error. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). Substantial
evidence is “more than a scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Id. (quotation omitted).
“Substantial evidence is relevant evidence which,
considering the record as a whole, a reasonable person might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. (quotation omitted).
is responsible for resolving conflicts in testimony,
determining credibility, and resolving ambiguities. See
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995).
“When the evidence before the ALJ is subject to more
than one rational interpretation, we must defer to the
ALJ's conclusion.” Batson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1198 (9th Cir. 2004). This
is so because “[t]he [ALJ] and not the reviewing court
must resolve conflicts in evidence, and if the evidence can
support either outcome, the court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ.” Matney v.
Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 1992) (citations
appeal, Mr. Batterton argues that the ALJ erred by rejecting
his symptom testimony in the absence of specific, clear, and
convincing reasons supported by substantial evidence in the
record as a whole. (Doc. 13 at 10.) He also asserts that the
appropriate remedy in this case would be to vacate the
ALJ's ruling and to remand this matter for a
determination of benefits. (Doc. 13 at 17.) For the following
reasons, the Court affirms the ruling of the ALJ.
The ALJ provided “Specific, Clear, and
Convincing” Reasons for Finding that Batterton's