United States District Court, D. Arizona
Murray Snow Chief United States District Judge.
before the Court is the appeal of Plaintiff Leslie Robin
Clark, which challenges the Social Security
Administration's decision to deny benefits. (Doc. 14).
For the reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the
decision of the ALJ.
January 2, 2014, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance
benefits, alleging a disability onset date of July 12, 2013.
(Tr. at 158). Plaintiff's claim was denied both initially
and upon reconsideration. (Tr. at 78; Tr. at 95). Plaintiff
then appealed to an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. at 106). The ALJ conducted a
hearing on the matter on May 4, 2016 and subsequently issued
a decision denying benefits. (Tr. at 148, 38). Plaintiff then
appealed her decision to the Appeals Council, which denied
her request for review. (Tr. at 1).
evaluating whether Plaintiff was disabled, the ALJ undertook
the five-step sequential evaluation for determining
disability. (Tr. at 31-38). At step one, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (Tr. at 32).
At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from
the severe impairments of status-post resection hemangioma,
including right sided hemiplegia in January 2014, and
migraine headaches. (Id.). At step three, the ALJ
determined that none of these impairments, either alone or in
combination, met or equaled any of the Social Security
Administration's listed impairments. (Id.).
point, the ALJ made a determination of Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”),
concluding that Plaintiff could perform sedentary work. (Tr.
at 32.) The ALJ thus determined at step four that Plaintiff
retained the RFC to perform her past relevant work as a
customer service clerk. (Tr. at 37). The ALJ did not reach
step five. (Tr. at 38).
Standard of Review
reviewing federal court will only address 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 only if 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).
“Substantial evidence is relevant evidence which,
considering the record as a whole, a reasonable person might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. (quotation omitted).
the ALJ 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 the evidence before the ALJ is subject to more
than one rational interpretation, we 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 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) (citations
argues that the ALJ erred by: (A) rejecting Dr. Gordon's
assessment of Plaintiff's fingering and feeling
limitations, (B) improperly evaluating Plaintiff's
testimony as to her symptoms, and by (C) failing to address
Ms. Clark's alleged cognitive impairments and additional
evidence submitted post-hearing. (Doc. 13 at 1).
Dr. Gordon's Assessment of Fingering Limitation
Clark does not challenge the ALJ's determination as to
her other physical limitations (gait and ambulation), but
only asserts that the ALJ wrongfully discounted Dr.
Gordon's assessment of her fingerling and feeling
limitation. Specifically, Ms. Clark alleges that she cannot
perform her past work as a customer service clerk because she
cannot type with her right hand. Because Dr. Gordon's
assessment is contradicted by Dr. Griffith's assessment
(Tr. at 36, 89), the ALJ only needed to point to