United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Honorable Candy W. Dale, United States Magistrate Judge
before the Court is the Petition for Review of
Respondent's denial of Social Security Disability
Benefits, filed by Larry Leroy Hersey on March 12, 2015.
(Dkt. 1.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 636(c), the parties
have consented to the exercise of jurisdiction over this
matter by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge.
(Dkt. 9.) The Court has reviewed the Petition for Review and
the Answer, the parties' memoranda, and the
administrative record (AR), and for the reasons that follow,
will affirm the decision of the Commissioner.
AND FACTUAL HISTORY
filed an application for Social Security Disability Benefits
on July 13, 2012, claiming disability beginning on January
31, 2011, due to various physical and mental
conditions. His application was denied initially and
again on reconsideration, and a hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) John T. Molleur on December
21, 2012. After hearing testimony from Petitioner and a
vocational expert, ALJ Molleur issued a decision finding
Petitioner not disabled on October 17, 2013. On January 9,
2015, the Appeals Council denied Petitioner's request for
review, making the ALJ's decision the final agency
decision. Petitioner appealed this final decision to the
Court on March 13, 2015. The Court has jurisdiction to review
the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
was born on December 7, 1967. He graduated from high school
and served in the military from 1987 through 2011.
Petitioner's past relevant work includes work as an
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation for
determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. At step one, it must
be determined whether the claimant is engaged in substantial
gainful activity. The ALJ found Petitioner has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of
January 31, 2011. At step two, it must be determined whether
the claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found
Petitioner's right hip degenerative joint disease,
ankylosing spondylosis, degenerative disease of the cervical
and lumbar spine, sleep apnea, migraines, and degenerative
joint disease of the hands severe within the meaning of the
three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal
a listed impairment. The ALJ found Petitioner's
impairments did not meet or equal the criteria for the listed
impairments, specifically considering Listing 1.02 (major
dysfunction of a joint), Listing 1.04 (disorders of the
spine), and Listing 3.10 (sleep related breathing disorders).
If a claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a
listing, the Commissioner must assess the claimant's
residual functional capacity (RFC) and determine, at step
four, whether the claimant has demonstrated an inability to
perform past relevant work.
found Petitioner was not able to perform past relevant work
as an airplane mechanic. If a claimant demonstrates an
inability to perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to demonstrate, at step five, that the
claimant retains the capacity to make an adjustment to other
work that exists in significant levels in the national
economy, after considering the claimant's residual
functional capacity, age, education and work experience.
the ALJ found Petitioner retained the RFC to perform
sedentary work, but with no climbing of ropes, ladders or
scaffolds; he can perform other postural activities
occasionally; he must limit overhead reaching with both upper
extremities to occasional; he must have no direct exposure to
vibrations and no concentrated exposure to extremes of cold,
dusts, fumes, gases, poor ventilation, and noxious odors; he
cannot work on unprotected heights; he can engage in frequent
reaching in all other directions with both upper extremities;
he can occasionally forcefully grip and twist with both
hands; and he can only frequently handle/finger with both
hands. With this RFC, the ALJ determined Petitioner could
perform the functions of representative occupations such as
room service order clerk, document preparer, and call out
bears the burden of showing that disability benefits are
appropriate because of the inability “to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which ... has
lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of
not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A); see also 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A); Rhinehart v. Finch, 438 F.2d 920,
921 (9th Cir. 1971). An individual will be determined to be
disabled only if her physical or mental impairments are of
such severity that she not only cannot do her previous work
but is unable, considering her age, education, and work
experience, to engage in any other kind of substantial
gainful work which exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C.
review, the Court is instructed to uphold the decision of the
Commissioner if the decision is supported by substantial
evidence and is not the product of legal error. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Universal Camera Corp. v. Nat'l Labor
Relations Bd., 340 U.S. 474 (1951); Meanel v.
Apfel, 172 F.3d 1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999) (as amended);
DeLorme v. Sullivan, 924 F.2d 841, 846 (9th Cir.
1991). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971). It is more than a scintilla but less than a
preponderance, Jamerson v Chater, 112 F.3d 1064,
1066 (9th Cir. 1997), and “does not mean a large or
considerable amount of evidence.” Pierce v.
Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988).
Court cannot disturb the Commissioner's findings if they
are supported by substantial evidence, even though other
evidence may exist that supports the petitioner's claims.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Flaten v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995).
Thus, findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, will be conclusive.
Flaten, 44 F.3d at 1457. It is well-settled that, if
there is substantial evidence to support the decision of the
Commissioner, the decision must be upheld even when the
evidence can reasonably support either affirming or reversing
the Commissioner's decision, because the Court “may
not substitute [its] judgment for that of the
Commissioner.” Verduzco v. Apfel, 188 F.3d
1087, 1089 (9th Cir. 1999).
reviewing a case under the substantial evidence standard, the
Court may question an ALJ's credibility assessment of a
witness's testimony; however, an ALJ's credibility
assessment is entitled to great weight, and the ALJ may
disregard a claimant's self-serving statements.
Rashad v. Sullivan, 903 F.2d 1229, 1231 (9th Cir.
1990). Where the ALJ makes a careful consideration of
subjective complaints but provides adequate reasons for
rejecting them, the ALJ's well-settled role as ...