United States District Court, D. Arizona
S. Willett United States Magistrate Judge.
before the Court is Joyce Darlene Kenney's
(“Plaintiff”) appeal of the Social Security
Administration's (“Social Security”) denial
of her application for disability insurance benefits. The
Court has jurisdiction to decide Plaintiff's appeal
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), the Court has the power to enter, based upon the
pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming,
modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security, with or without remanding the case for a
rehearing. Both parties have consented to the exercise of
U.S. Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. (Doc. 14).
reviewing the Administrative Record (“A.R.”) and
the parties' briefing (Docs. 15, 19), the Court finds
that the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”)
decision is supported by substantial evidence and is free of
harmful legal error. The decision is therefore affirmed.
Disability Analysis: Five-Step Evaluation
Social Security Act (the “Act”) provides for
disability insurance benefits to those who have contributed
to the Social Security program and who suffer from a physical
or mental disability. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1). To be
eligible for benefits based on an alleged disability, the
claimant must show that he or she suffers from a medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that prohibits him
or her from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The claimant must also show that
the impairment is expected to cause death or last for a
continuous period of at least 12 months. Id.
decide if a claimant is entitled to Social Security benefits,
an ALJ conducts an analysis consisting of five questions,
which are considered in sequential steps. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a). The claimant has the burden of proof regarding
the first four steps:
Step One: Is the claimant engaged in “substantial
gainful activity”? If so, the analysis ends and
disability benefits are denied. Otherwise, the ALJ proceeds
to step two.
Step Two: Does the claimant have a medically severe
impairment or combination of impairments? A severe impairment
is one which significantly limits the claimant's physical
or mental ability to do basic work activities. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(c). If the claimant does not have a severe
impairment or combination of impairments, disability benefits
are denied at this step. Otherwise, the ALJ proceeds to step
Step Three: Is the impairment equivalent to one of a number
of listed impairments that the Commissioner acknowledges are
so severe as to preclude substantial gainful activity? 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If the impairment meets or equals
one of the listed impairments, the claimant is conclusively
presumed to be disabled. If the impairment is not one that is
presumed to be disabling, the ALJ proceeds to the fourth step
of the analysis.
Step Four: Does the impairment prevent the claimant from
performing work which the claimant performed in the past? If
not, the claimant is “not disabled” and
disability benefits are denied without continuing the
analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). Otherwise, the ALJ
proceeds to the last step.
analysis proceeds to the final question, the burden of proof
shifts to the Commissioner:
Step Five: Can the claimant perform other work in the
national economy in light of his or her age, education, and
work experience? The claimant is entitled to disability
benefits only if he or she is unable to perform other work.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g). Social Security is responsible
for providing evidence that demonstrates that other work
exists in significant numbers in the national economy that
the claimant can do, given the claimant's residual
functional capacity, age, education, and work experience.
Standard of Review Applicable to ALJ's
Court must affirm an ALJ's decision if it is supported by
substantial evidence and is based on correct legal standards.
Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir.
2012); Marcia v. Sullivan, 900 F.2d 172, 174 (9th
Cir. 1990). “Substantial evidence” is less than a
preponderance, but more than a “mere scintilla.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)
(quoting Consolidated Edison v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197,
229 (1938)). It is relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.
determining whether substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's decision, the Court considers the record as a
whole, weighing both the evidence that supports and detracts
from the ALJ's conclusions. Reddick v. Chater,
157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998); Tylitzki v.
Shalala, 999 F.2d 1411, 1413 (9th Cir. 1993). If there
is sufficient evidence to support the ALJ's
determination, the Court cannot substitute its own
determination. See Morgan v. Comm'r of the Social
Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999)
(“Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, it is the ALJ's conclusion that
must be upheld.”); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881
F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The ALJ, not the ...