United States District Court, D. Arizona
Douglas L. Rayes, United States District Judge
applied for Supplemental Security Income on February 22,
2013, alleging disability beginning January 1, 2013. (A.R.
10.) The claim was denied initially on June 26, 2013, and
upon reconsideration on November 13, 2013. (Id.)
Plaintiff then requested a hearing. (Id.) On
December 2, 2014, Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE)
testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ). (Id. at 37-88.) During the hearing, Plaintiff
amended his disability onset date to February 22, 2013.
(Id. at 10.)
March 27, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act, which became the Commissioner's final
decision when the Appeals Council denied review.
(Id. at 1-4, 10-20.) On November 22, 2016, Plaintiff
sought review by this Court. (Doc. 1.) After receipt of the
administrative record (Doc. 17), the parties fully briefed
the issues for review (Docs. 18-20). For reasons stated
below, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.
determine whether a claimant is disabled for purposes of the
Social Security Act, the ALJ follows a five-step process. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). At the first step, the ALJ
determines whether the claimant is engaging in substantial
gainful activity. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). If so, the
claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. At step two,
the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a
“severe” medically determinable physical or
mental impairment. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If not, the
claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. At step three,
the ALJ considers whether the claimant's impairment or
combination of impairments meets or medically equals an
impairment listed in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt.
404. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If so, the claimant is
automatically found to be disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds
to step four. At step four, the ALJ assesses the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) and
determines whether the claimant is still capable of
performing past relevant work. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If
so, the claimant is not disabled and the inquiry ends. If
not, the ALJ proceeds to the fifth and final step, where she
determines whether the claimant can perform any other work
based on the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work
experience. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). If so, the claimant is
not disabled. If not, the claimant is disabled.
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since February 22, 2013. (A.R.
12.) At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the
following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of
the cervical and lumbar spine, diabetes mellitus, obesity,
major depressive disorder and learning disorder.
(Id.) At step three, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff's listed impairments do not meet or equal the
severity of one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 to
Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404. (Id. at 13.) At step
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff:
has the [RFC] to perform light work . . . except he can climb
ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl
frequently, climb ladders occasionally and never climb ropes
and scaffolds, must avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary
irritants, and can understand, remember and carry out simple
instructions and perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks.
(Id. at 14.) The ALJ also found that Plaintiff has
no past relevant work. (Id. at 18.) At step five,
however, after considering Plaintiff's age, education,
work experience, and RFC, the ALJ concluded that there are
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that Plaintiff can perform. (Id. at 19.)
Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled.
(Id. at 19-20.)
not the district court's role to review the ALJ's
decision de novo or otherwise determine whether the claimant
is disabled. Rather, the court is limited to reviewing the
ALJ's decision to determine whether it “contains
legal error or is not supported by substantial
evidence.” Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630
(9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is more than a
scintilla but less than a preponderance, and “such
relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Id.
“Where evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, the ALJ's decision should be
upheld.” Id. The court, however, “must
consider the entire record as a whole and may not affirm
simply by isolating a ‘specific quantum of supporting
evidence.'” Id. Nor may the court
“affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not
appeal, Plaintiff challenges the ALJ's determination that
Plaintiff's impairments do not meet Listing 12.05C.
Plaintiff also challenges whether the ALJ's RFC and step
five determinations are supported by substantial evidence.
Having reviewed the record and the parties' briefs, the
Court concludes that the ALJ did not err.
The ALJ Did Not Error at Step Three
three, the ALJ considers whether Plaintiff's impairments
meet or equal the severity of an impairment listed in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. If Plaintiff's