United States District Court, D. Idaho
SARAH S. JOHNSON, Petitioner,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Respondent.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Honorable Ronald E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge.
before this Court is Petitioner Sarah S. Johnson's
Petition for Review, seeking review of the Social Security
Administration's final decision to deny her benefits
under the Social Security Act. See generally Pet.
for Review (Docket No. 1). This action is brought pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Having carefully reviewed the record
and otherwise being fully advised, the Court enters the
following Memorandum Decision and Order:
S. Johnson (“Petitioner”) filed her claims for
supplemental security income (SSDI) and child disability
benefits on February 28, 2012 and March 16, 2012,
respectively - in both applications, Petitioner alleged
disability beginning December 21, 1993. These claims were
initially denied on June 20, 2012 and, again, on
reconsideration on September 18, 2012. On November 8, 2012,
Petitioner timely filed a Request for Hearing before and
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On August 14,
2013, ALJ John T. Molleur held a hearing in Boise, Idaho, at
which time, Petitioner (unrepresented at the time) appeared
and testified. Impartial vocational expert, Polly A.
Peterson, also appeared and testified during the same August
14, 2013 hearing.
December 5, 2013, the ALJ issued a Decision denying
Petitioner's claims, finding that Petitioner was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
Petitioner timely requested review from the Appeals Council
on December 20, 2013, at that time, submitting new evidence
which was accepted into the record. On March 4, 2015, the
Appeals Council denied Petitioner's Request for Review,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security.
exhausted her administrative remedies, Petitioner timely
files the instant action, alleging:
It is Petitioner's contention that the denial of her
disability claim is not supported by substantial evidence
under the standards set forth by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and
all other applicable laws and regulations, including the
weight of the evidence, her credibility, the medical opinions
of her doctors, and any and all other applicable evidentiary
issues, both in law and in fact . . . .
for Review, p. 2 (Docket No. 1). In particular, Petitioner
argues that (1) the ALJ's denial of benefits is not
supported by substantial evidence in the record in light of
the evidence submitted to the Appeals Council; (2) that
evidence is new and material; and (3) the ALJ's unfocused
conduct at the August 14, 2013 hearing was contrary to his
obligation to assist an unrepresented claimant in the
presentation of her claim. See Brief in Supp. of
Pet. for Review, p. 3 (Docket No. 16). Petitioner therefore
requests that the denial of her claim should be reversed or
remanded for further administrative proceedings. See
Pet. for Review, p. 2 (Docket No. 1).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
upheld, the Commissioner's decision must be supported by
substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Matney ex. rel. Matney v.
Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 1992);
Gonzalez v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 1197, 1200 (9th Cir.
1990). Findings as to any question of fact, if supported by
substantial evidence, are conclusive. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). In other words, if there is substantial evidence to
support the ALJ's factual decisions, they must be upheld,
even when there is conflicting evidence. Hall v.
Sec'y of Health, Educ. & Welfare, 602 F.2d 1372,
1374 (9th Cir. 1979).
evidence” is defined as such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971); Tylitzki v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 1411, 1413
(9th Cir. 1993); Flaten v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995). The standard
requires more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance
(see Sorenson v. Weinberger, 514 F.2d 1112, 1119 n.
10 (9th Cir. 1975); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d
747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989)), and “does not mean a large
or considerable amount of evidence.” Pierce v.
Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988).
respect to questions of fact, the role of the Court is to
review the record as a whole to determine whether it contains
evidence that would allow a reasonable mind to accept the
conclusions of the ALJ. See Richardson, 402 U.S. at
401; see also Matney, 981 F.2d at 1019. The ALJ is
responsible for determining credibility and resolving
conflicts in medical testimony (see Allen v.
Heckler, 749 F.2d 577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984)), resolving
ambiguities (see Vincent ex. rel. Vincent v.
Heckler, 739 F.2d 1393, 1394-95 (9th Cir. 1984)), and
drawing inferences logically flowing from the evidence
(see Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639, 642 (9th
Cir. 1982)). Where the evidence is susceptible to more than
one rational interpretation in a disability proceeding, the
reviewing court may not substitute its judgment or
interpretation of the record for that of the ALJ.
Flaten, 44 F.3d at 1457; Key v. Heckler,
754 F.2d 1545, 1549 (9th Cir. 1985).
respect to questions of law, the ALJ's decision must be
based on proper legal standards and will be reversed for
legal error. Matney, 981 F.2d at 1019. The ALJ's
construction of the Social Security Act is entitled to
deference if it has a reasonable basis in law. See
id. However, reviewing federal courts “will not
rubber-stamp an administrative decision that is inconsistent
with the statutory mandate or that ...