United States District Court, D. Arizona
Michelle H. Burns United States Magistrate Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff Marylou Harbaugh'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.
December 3, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the
Social Security Act, alleging a disability onset date of June
30, 2010 - later amended to June 1, 2013. The application was
denied initially and on reconsideration. Thereafter,
Plaintiff requested a hearing, and on September 4, 2014, she
appeared and testified before the ALJ. On November 13, 2014,
the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not
disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision
of the Commissioner. Thereafter, Plaintiff sought judicial
review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Â§
STANDARD OF REVIEW
ALJ's decision to deny benefits will be overturned
“only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or
is based on legal error.” Magallanes v. Bowen,
881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989) (quotation marks omitted).
“Substantial evidence” means more than a mere
scintilla, but less than a preponderance. See Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 720 (9th Cir. 1998).
inquiry here is whether the record ... yields such evidence
as would allow a reasonable mind to accept the conclusions
reached by the ALJ.” Gallant v. Heckler, 753
F.2d 1450, 1453 (9th Cir. 1984) (citation omitted). In
determining whether there is substantial evidence to support
a decision, the Court considers the record as a whole,
weighing both the evidence that supports the ALJ's
conclusions and the evidence that detracts from the ALJ's
conclusions. See Reddick, 157 F.3d at 720.
“Where evidence is susceptible of more than one
rational interpretation, it is the ALJ's conclusion which
must be upheld; and in reaching his findings, the ALJ is
entitled to draw inferences logically flowing from the
evidence.” Gallant, 753 F.2d at 1453
(citations omitted); see Batson v. Comm'r of the Soc.
Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). This
is because “[t]he trier of fact and not the reviewing
court must resolve conflicts in the 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); see Young v. Sullivan, 911 F.2d 180, 184 (9th
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).
Thus, if on the whole record before the Court, substantial
evidence supports the Commissioner's decision, the Court
must affirm it. See Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498,
501 (9th Cir. 1989). On the other hand, the Court “may
not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of
supporting evidence.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d
625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks omitted).
the Court is not charged with reviewing the evidence and
making its own judgment as to whether a plaintiff is or is
not disabled. Rather, the Court's inquiry is constrained
to the reasons asserted by the ALJ and the evidence relied
upon in support of those reasons. See Connett v.
Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 874 (9th Cir. 2003).
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 ...