Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bromley v. Berryhil

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 29, 2017

Roberta Lynn Bromley, Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          MICHELLE H. BUMS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Roberta Lynn Bromley's appeal from the Social Security Administration's final decision to deny her claim for disability insurance benefits. After reviewing the administrative record and the arguments of the parties, the Court now issues the following ruling.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In August 2007, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits alleging disability beginning January 20, 2005.[1] Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge. A hearing was held on December 7, 2009, and the ALJ issued a decision on April 10, 2010, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled from the alleged onset date through the date last insured. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, 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) in the United States District Court - District of Arizona.

         On April 8, 2013, the district court found that the ALJ erred in failing to discuss Plaintiff's mental impairments in making the RFC determination and failing to set forth clear and convincing reasons for rejecting Plaintiff's subjective complaint testimony. Thus, the court vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded the matter for further administrative proceedings.

         The ALJ held a second hearing pursuant to the district court's remand order and issued a decision on March 18, 2014. The ALJ again found Plaintiff not under a disability from August 1, 2006 (the amended alleged onset date) through the date last insured. The record reflects that Plaintiff filed written exceptions to the March 18, 2014 decision and the Appeals Council remanded the matter back to the ALJ for additional proceedings.

         A third hearing was held on May 20, 2015, and on July 1, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not under a disability at any time from the alleged onset date through the last date insured. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, 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).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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). A 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. See 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. See id. In determining whether substantial evidence supports a decision, a 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).

         Harmless error principles apply in this context. See Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1115 (9th Cir. 2012). An error is harmless if there remains substantial evidence supporting the ALJ's decision and the error does not affect the ultimate nondisability determination. See id. The claimant usually bears the burden of showing that an error is harmful. See id. at 1111.

         The ALJ is responsible for resolving conflicts in medical testimony, determining credibility, and resolving ambiguities. See Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). In reviewing the ALJ's reasoning, the court is “not deprived of [its] faculties for drawing ... inferences from the ALJ's opinion.” Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 755 (9thCir. 1989).

         III. THE ALJ'S FINDINGS

         In 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).

         At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from her alleged onset date through the date last insured. (Tr. at 594.) At step two, she found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: status post left Achilles tendon transfer, fibromyalgia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (Tr. at 595-597.) At step three, the ALJ stated that through the date last insured Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 of the Commissioner's regulations. (Tr. at 597-98.) 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 claimant could occasionally push or pull with the bilateral upper extremities. Claimant could occasionally operate foot controls with the bilateral lower extremities. Claimant could never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, but could occasionally climb ramps or stairs. Claimant could frequently balance, stoop, and kneel. Claimant could occasionally crouch and crawl. Claimant could have no more than occasional exposure to non-weather-related extreme temperatures, such as extreme cold and extreme heat. Claimant should have no more than occasional exposure to pulmonary irritants, such as fumes, odors, dusts and gases. Claimant should have no more than occasional exposure to poorly ventilated areas, dangerous machinery, with moving mechanical parts and unprotected heights.”[2] (Tr. at ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.