United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable Lynette C. Kimmins United States Magistrate Judge
Alicia Merriott filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision by
the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner). (Doc. 1.)
Before the Court are Merriott's Opening Brief,
Defendant's Responsive Brief, and Merriott's Reply.
(Docs. 14, 15, 17.) The parties have consented to Magistrate
Judge jurisdiction. (Doc. 21.) Based on the pleadings and the
administrative record, the Court affirms the
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
on March 26, 2013. (Administrative Record (AR) 181.) She
alleged disability from December 15, 2008. (Id.)
Merriott's application was denied upon initial review (AR
95-106) and on reconsideration (AR 107-21). A hearing was
held on October 26, 2015 (AR 59-93), after which an ALJ found
that Merriott was not disabled because she could perform work
available in the national economy (AR 22-33). The Appeals
Council denied Merriott's request to review the ALJ's
decision. (AR 1.)
was born on September 19, 1976, making her 36 years of age at
the time her SSI application was submitted. (AR 181.)
Merriott left school after eighth grade. (AR 202.) She has
been employed twice, for a few months each time, in 2007 and
2008. (AR 203, 263.)
found Merriott had one severe impairment, affective disorder.
The ALJ determined Merriott had the RFC to perform work at
all exertional levels limited to occupations that do not
require complex written or spoken communication; simple,
routine, repetitive tasks that can be learned hands-on or by
observation; and only occasional interaction with coworkers
and the public. (AR 26.) Based on the testimony of a
vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that Merriott could
perform work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy. (AR 33.) In particular, she could work as a
janitor/cleaner, assembler, and dishwasher/kitchen helper.
Commissioner employs a five-step sequential process to
evaluate SSI claims. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; see also
Heckler v. Campbell, 461 U.S. 458, 460-462 (1983). To
establish disability the claimant bears the burden of showing
she (1) is not working; (2) has a severe physical or mental
impairment; (3) the impairment meets or equals the
requirements of a listed impairment; and (4) claimant's
RFC precludes her from performing her past work. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)(4). At Step Five, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to show that the claimant has the RFC to perform
other work that exists in substantial numbers in the national
economy. Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th
Cir. 2007). If the Commissioner conclusively finds the
claimant “disabled” or “not disabled”
at any point in the five-step process, she does not proceed
to the next step. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4).
ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in medical testimony, and for resolving
ambiguities.” Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d
1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Magallanes v.
Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989)). The findings
of the Commissioner are meant to be conclusive if supported
by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla but less than a
preponderance.” Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d
1094, 1098 (9th Cir. 1999) (quoting Matney v.
Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1018 (9th Cir. 1992)). The
Court may overturn the decision to deny benefits only
“when the ALJ's findings are based on legal error
or are not supported by substantial evidence in the record as
a whole.” Aukland v. Massanari, 257 F.3d 1033,
1035 (9th Cir. 2001). This is so because the ALJ “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, 981 F.2d at 1019 (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 400 (1971));
Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d
1190, 1198 (9th Cir. 2004). The Commissioner's decision,
however, “cannot be affirmed simply by isolating a
specific quantum of supporting evidence.” Sousa v.
Callahan, 143 F.3d 1240, 1243 (9th Cir. 1998) (citing
Hammock v. Bowen, 879 F.2d 498, 501 (9th Cir.
1989)). Reviewing courts must consider the evidence that
supports as well as detracts from the Commissioner's
conclusion. Day v. Weinberger, 522 F.2d 1154, 1156
(9th Cir. 1975).
argues the ALJ committed three errors: (1) she failed to
consider an examining psychologist's opinion and test
results; (2) she failed to consider whether Merriott met
Listing 12.05C; and (3) she failed to develop the record
regarding Merriott's cognitive abilities.
argues that the ALJ failed to mention the opinion of
psychologist Dee Winsky, Ph.D. Dr. Winsky examined Merriott
on February 7, 2013, in conjunction with a CPS case. She
found evidence of PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, and dementia with
corresponding memory deficits. (AR 307.) She tested Merriott
and concluded she fell in the intellectually deficient range,
reading at a fifth grade level. (Id.) And, on the
Basic Personality Inventory, Merriott scored high for a
Thinking Disorder, indicating she was ...