United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. Murray Snow, United States District Judge
before the Court is Claimant Harold Randall Hunsaker
Jr.'s appeal of the Social Security Administration's
(SSA) decision to deny disability benefits and supplemental
security income. (Doc. 19). For the following reasons, the
Court affirms the ALJ's decision.
February 20, 2013, Mr. Hunsaker filed a claim for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
and on February 22, 2013 Mr. Hunsaker filed a Title XVI
application for supplemental security income. Mr. Hunsaker
alleged that the disability began on October 2, 2012 after he
suffered an aneurysm. (Tr. 40). His applications to the SSA
alleged disability on the basis of aortic dissection,
congestive heart failure, acute kidney injury, hemodialysis,
and high blood pressure. (Tr. 126, 258). Mr. Hunsaker also
alleges depression and anxiety disorders. His claims were
denied on July 11, 2013; reconsideration was denied on
December 30, 2013.
Hunsaker requested and received a hearing which was held on
March 20, 2015. The ALJ found that Mr. Hunsaker was not
disabled under the Act. The Appeals Council denied the
request to review, making the Commissioner's decision
final. Mr. Hunsaker now seeks judicial review of this
decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
reviewing federal court will address only 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 when 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). It is
“relevant evidence which, considering the record as a
whole, a reasonable person might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Id. (quotation
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 evidence is “subject to more than one rational
interpretation, [courts] 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)
alleges that the ALJ erred by (1) failing to properly assess
Claimant's mental residual functional capacity (RFC); (2)
failing to fully develop the record; and (3) improperly
rejecting Claimant's credibility.
Residual Functional Capacity
determined that Mr. Hunsaker had severe impairments, but that
they did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment.
(Tr. 21). When an impairment does not meet or equal a listed
impairment, the ALJ must make a finding about the
claimant's residual functional capacity. The RFC is then
used at steps four and five of the sequential process to
determine whether the claimant can return to past relevant
work or adjust to other work in the national economy. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). A claimant's RFC “is the
most [the claimant] can still do despite [the claimant's]
limitations.” Id. at § 404.1545(a)(1). In
assessing an RFC, ALJs must consider “all of [the
claimant's] medically determinable impairments.”
Id. at § 404.1545(a)(2).
Hunsaker argues that the ALJ erred by failing to properly
account for Mr. Hunsaker's mental limitations in the RFC.
The ALJ determined that Mr. Hunsaker had two severe mental
impairments: anxiety disorder and depressive disorder. (Tr.
19). The ALJ further determined that Mr. Hunsaker's
mental limitations did not meet or medically equal a listed
impairment. (Tr. 21-22). To meet the “paragraph
B” criteria, a claimant must show that their mental
impairment or impairments result in two of the following:
“marked restriction of activities of daily living;
marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; marked
difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or
pace; or repeated episodes of decompensation.” (Tr.
21). The ALJ found that Mr. Hunsaker had only mild
restrictions of daily living and social functioning; in
addition, Mr. Hunsaker has no episodes of decompensation.
(Tr. 21-22). However, the ALJ did find that Mr. Hunsaker had
moderate restrictions of concentration, persistence, and
pace. (Tr. 22). The ALJ ...