United States District Court, D. Arizona
Michelle H. Bums United States Magistrate Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff Barbara Bradley'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.
January 13, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits pursuant to Title II of the
Social Security Act. She alleged disability beginning July 1,
2011. The application was initially denied on June 6, 2013.
It was again denied upon reconsideration on September 26,
2013. Plaintiff requested a hearing, and on February 3, 2015,
she appeared and testified before the ALJ. On March 20, 2015,
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. §
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 Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956
(9th Cir. 1993).
one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since June 1, 2011 - the alleged
onset date. (Transcript of Administrative Record
(“Tr.”) at 15.) At step two, she found that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: essential
hypertension, hyperlipidemia, lumbar degenerative disc
disease, and dysfunction of her left knee. (Tr. at 15-18.) At
step three, the ALJ stated that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1 of the Commissioner's regulations.
(Tr. at 18.) After consideration of the entire record, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff retained “the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) except she can occasionally climb ramps and
stairs, but never ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. She can
frequently balance. She can occasionally stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl. She can have frequent contact with fumes,
odors, dust, gases, and poor ventilation.” (Tr. at
18-23.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was able to perform
“past relevant work as a case manager, DOT 195,
107-030, sedentary, skilled, SVP 7, and a front desk clerk,
DOT 237.367-010, sedentary, semi-skilled, SVP 3. This work
does not require the performance of work-related activities
precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity
(20 CFR 404.1565).” (Tr. at 23-24.) Therefore, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff has not been under a disability from
June 1, 2011, through the date of her decision. (Tr. at 24.)
brief, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by: (1) failing
to properly consider her subjective complaints; and (2)
failing to properly weigh medical source opinion evidence.
Plaintiff requests that the Court remand for determination of
Plaintiff's Subjective Complaints
argues that the ALJ erred in rejecting her subjective
complaints in the absence of clear and convincing reasons for
doing so. Plaintiff specifically refutes the ALJ's
analysis and conclusions drawn from the objective medical
evidence, Plaintiff's medical treatment and ...