Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wills v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 20, 2019

Todd Wills, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Todd Wills applied for disability insurance benefits and for a period of disability, alleging disability beginning May 11, 2011. (A.R. 14.) The claim was denied initially on January 9, 2014, and upon reconsideration on April 24, 2014. (Id.) Plaintiff then requested a hearing. (Id.) On October 16, 2015, Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Id. at 39-81.) At the hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged disability onset date to May 1, 2012. (Id. at 14.)

         On February 18, 2016, 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 1-3.) On September 1, 2017, Plaintiff sought review by this Court. (Doc. 1.) After receipt of the administrative record (Doc. 11), the parties fully briefed the issues for review (Docs. 13-14). For reasons stated below, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

         I. Background

         To 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.

         At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements on December 31, 2015, and did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from May 1, 2012 through December 31, 2015. (A.R. 17.) At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: history of ulcerative colitis; degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine; cervical spondylosis; history of bilateral inguinal hernias; and status-post laparoscopic bilateral inguinal hernia repair. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's listed impairments did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404. (Id. at 20.) At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff:

has the [RFC] to perform a range of light work . . . . Specifically, the claimant can lift and carry 25 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk for six hours; sit for six hours; and requires ready access to a restroom, which is defined as within a five-minute walk of his workstation.

(Id. at 20.) Based on this RFC, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is able to perform his past relevant work as an automobile tester and industrial arts teacher. (Id. at 25.) Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. (Id. at 26.)

         II. Standard of Review

          It is 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 rely.” Id.

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred at step two by finding Plaintiff's cognitive and depressive disorders non-severe. Plaintiff also challenges whether the ALJ's RFC determination is supported by substantial evidence. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ improperly weighed treating physician opinions and rejected his symptom testimony.

         A. The ALJ Did Not Err at Step Two

         The step two inquiry is a de minimis screening device to dispose of groundless claims. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 153-54 (1987). Its purpose “is to do no more than allow the [Commissioner] to deny benefits summarily to those applicants with impairments of a minimal nature which could never prevent a person from working.” Titles II & XVI: Med. Impairments That Are Not Severe, SSR 85-28 (S.S.A. 1985) (internal quotation omitted). Agency regulations provide that “[a]n impairment or combination of impairments is not severe if it does not significantly limit a claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.” §§ 404.1521(a), 416.921(a). Basic work activities are “the abilities and aptitudes necessary to do most jobs, ” including: (1) physical functions such as walking, standing, sitting, lifting, and carrying; (2) capacities for seeing, hearing, and speaking; (3) understanding, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.