United States District Court, D. Idaho
KRISTIE A. CHRAPKOWSKI, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge
pending before the Court is Kristie Chrapkowski's
Petition for Review of the Respondent's denial of social
security benefits, filed on September 21, 2015. (Dkt. 1.) 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 remand the
decision of the Commissioner.
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income on November 27, 2012. This
application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and
a hearing was held on April 16, 2014, before Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) John Molleur. After hearing testimony from
Petitioner and a vocational expert, ALJ Molleur issued a
decision on May 21, 2014, finding Petitioner not disabled.
Petitioner timely requested review by the Appeals Council,
which denied her request for review on July 29, 2015.
appealed this final decision to the Court. The Court has
jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
time of the hearing, Petitioner was forty-six years of age.
Petitioner has a high school education, and her prior work
experience includes work as a cashier.
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 had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of
November 27, 2012. At step two, it must be determined whether
the claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found
Petitioner's fibromyalgia, peripheral neuropathy,
hepatitis C, and osteoarthritis of the hands and feet severe
within the meaning of the Regulations.
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 Petitioner's
fibromyalgia under Sections 1.00 and 11.00, which address
musculoskeletal impairments and neurological disorders,
respectively. The ALJ considered also whether
Petitioner's peripheral neuropathy met Listing 11.14
(peripheral neuropathies), and whether Petitioner's
hepatitis C met Listing 5.05 (Chronic liver disease). And
finally, the ALJ considered whether Petitioner's
osteoarthritis met Listing 1.02 (major dysfunction of a
joint). The ALJ determined none of Petitioner's
impairments met or equaled the criteria for the listed
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. In assessing Petitioner's functional
capacity, the ALJ determines whether Petitioner's
complaints about the intensity, persistence and limiting
effects of her pain are credible. Here, the ALJ found
Petitioner's complaints not entirely credible. The ALJ
found also that the medical source statement of
Petitioner's treating physician, Dr. Knorpp, was not
consistent with the medical records from Petitioner's
onset date forward. Accordingly, the ALJ gave Dr.
Knorpp's opinion minimal weight. After so doing, the ALJ
determined Petitioner retained the RFC to perform sedentary
work, with limitations on crouching, stooping, balancing and
crawling, and that her grip strength bilaterally was further
impaired. With regard to Petitioner's mental limitations
due to fibromyalgia, the ALJ limited Petitioner to simple,
three and four step tasks.
found Petitioner not able to perform her past relevant work
as a cashier. 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. Here, the ALJ found
Petitioner retained the ability to perform the requirements
of representative occupations such as food and beverage order
clerk; ticket checker; and surveillance system monitor.
Consequently, the ALJ determined Petitioner was not disabled.
bears the burden of showing that disability benefits are
proper 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 the judge
of credibility will be upheld as based on substantial
evidence. Matthews v. Shalala, 10 F.3d 678, 679-80
(9th Cir. 1993).
contends the ALJ erred at step four in assessing her
credibility and in rejecting the opinion of her treating
physician, Dr. Knorpp.