United States District Court, D. Arizona
LYNNETTE C. KIMMINS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Kerina Sanders 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 Sanders's Opening Brief,
Defendant's Responsive Brief, and Sanders's Reply.
(Docs. 16, 17, 20.) The parties have consented to Magistrate
Judge jurisdiction. (Doc. 13.) Based on the pleadings and the
administrative record, the Court affirms the
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in August 2014.
(Administrative Record (AR) 213, 216.) She alleged disability
from June 4, 2014. (AR 213.) Sanders's application was
denied upon initial review (AR 89-110) and on reconsideration
(AR 111-38). A hearing was held on January 9, 2017. (AR
58-88.) Subsequently, the ALJ found that Sanders was not
disabled. (AR 33-45.) The Appeals Council denied
Sanders's request for review. (AR 1.)
was born in 1961 and was 52 years of age at the alleged onset
date of her disability. (AR 213.) The ALJ found that Sanders
had severe impairments of left hip degenerative joint
disease, fibromyalgia, hepatitis C infection, and mild
obesity. (AR 36.) The ALJ determined Sanders had the Residual
Functional Capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work with
frequent stooping, crouching, and balancing, but only
occasional crawling or climbing ladders/ropes/scaffolds. (AR
39.) The ALJ concluded at Step Four, based on the testimony
of a vocational expert, that Sanders could perform her past
relevant work as a telemarketer. (AR 44.)
Commissioner employs a five-step sequential process to
evaluate SSI and DIB claims. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520;
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. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 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, he does not proceed to the
next step. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(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 two errors: (1) he failed to account
for limitations arising from Sanders's hand impairments;
and (2) he failed to provide clear and convincing reasons for
rejecting her symptom testimony.
argues the ALJ erred in not finding her hand impairments
severe at Step Two and including manipulative limitations in
the RFC. At Step Two, the ALJ found that Sanders's left
hand condition was non-severe. (AR 36.) The ALJ noted
Sanders's history of left hand surgery and 4/5 left upper
extremity strength in August 2014, but he found that
“the evidence d[id] not demonstrate ongoing
restrictions due to this condition.” (Id.) The
ALJ stated that he had considered Sanders's reports of
bodily pain related to the severe impairment of fibromyalgia.
finding of disability requires an “inability to do any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1505, 416.905. A physical or mental
impairment must last or be expected to last for 12 or more
months and must be “established by medical evidence
consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings, not
only by your statement of symptoms.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1508, 404.1509, 416.907, 416.909. An
impairment is “not ...