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Govan v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 28, 2019

Joshua Govan, Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Defendant.


          Honorable Lynnette C. Kimmins United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Joshua Govan 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 Govan's Opening Brief, Defendant's Responsive Brief, and Govan's Reply. (Docs. 19-21.) The parties have consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction. (Doc. 18.) Based on the pleadings and the administrative record submitted to the Court, the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.


         Govan filed an application for adult child's Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) in January 2013. (Administrative Record (AR) 203.) He alleged disability from May 5, 1994 (id.), amended to May 5, 2012 (his 18th birthday), at his hearing. (AR 13, 37.) Govan's application was denied upon initial review (AR 57-86) and on reconsideration (AR 87-114). A hearing was held on October 23, 2015. (AR 30-56.) Subsequently, the ALJ found that Govan was not disabled. (AR 13-24). The Appeals Council denied Govan's request to review the ALJ's decision. (AR 1.)


         Govan was born on May 5, 1994, making him 18 years of age at the onset date of his alleged disability. (AR 203.) Govan has never done substantial gainful activity.

         The ALJ found that Govan had the severe impairments of borderline intellectual functioning and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. (AR 16.) The ALJ determined Govan did not have a listed impairment. (AR 16-19.) The ALJ found Govan had the RFC to perform light work but could only occasionally climb ladders and must avoid hazards; perform simple tasks, with simple instructions; and work primarily with things, having only occasional contact with others. The ALJ concluded that Govan could maintain concentration, persistence, and pace for two-hour periods without a break. (AR 19.) Relying on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ found at Step Five that Govan could perform work that exists in significant numbers, such as cleaner/housekeeper, cafeteria attendant, and advertising distributor. (AR 24.)


         A claimant may receive disabled child insurance benefits if he is older than 18 and his disability began before age 22. 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(5). The Commissioner employs a five-step sequential process to evaluate DIB claims. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; see also Heckler v. Campbell, 461 U.S. 458, 460-462 (1983). To establish disability the claimant bears the burden of showing he (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 him from performing his past work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(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. § 404.1520(a)(4).

         “The 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).


         Govan argues the ALJ committed three errors: (1) he failed to find that Govan met Listing 12.05(C); (2) he failed to include all of Govan's limitations in the RFC; and (3) he failed to properly weigh opinion evidence. Govan requests a remand for the award of benefits.

         Listing 12.05C

         Govan argues that the ALJ failed to consider whether he met the requirements of Listing 12.05C and, if he had done so, he ...

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