United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge
pending before the Court is Sharla Steiner-Leach's
Petition for Review of the Respondent's denial of social
security benefits, filed on November 4, 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 affirm the
decision of the Commissioner.
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income on November 14, 2012. This
application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and
a hearing was held on April 10, 2014, before Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) Lloyd Hartford. After hearing testimony from
Petitioner and a vocational expert, ALJ Hartford issued a
decision on June 2, 2014, finding Petitioner not disabled.
Petitioner timely requested review by the Appeals Council,
which denied her request for review on September 11, 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 twenty-five years of age.
Petitioner has a high school education. Her prior work
experience includes full-time work as a cashier, having
worked at Home Depot in the past.
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 14, 2012.
two, it must be determined whether the claimant suffers from
a severe impairment. The ALJ found Petitioner's disorder
of the muscle, ligament, and fascia, which affected the use
of her dominant right hand, 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 for major
dysfunction of a joint.
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.
the ALJ found Petitioner's complaints about the intensity
and persistence of her pain not entirely credible. The ALJ
found also that the medical source statements of
Petitioner's treating physicians, Drs. Gustavel and
Krafft, were not consistent with the medical records as a
whole from Petitioner's onset date forward. Accordingly,
the ALJ gave the physicians' opinions limited weight.
so doing, the ALJ determined Petitioner retained the ability
to perform light work, with the exception that she could lift
or carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently; stand or walk six hours in an eight-hour workday
and sit six hours during an eight-hour workday; occasionally
push or pull with the right upper extremity; never climb and
occasionally crawl; occasionally reach in front, laterally,
and overhead and occasionally handle, finger and feel with
the right upper extremity. (AR 18.) The ALJ further stated
that Petitioner is essentially a one-armed worker due to her
right shoulder impairment, and is limited to using her right
arm as a helper as Petitioner described during her testimony.
found Petitioner did not retain the ability to perform her
past relevant work as a cashier, and therefore proceeded to
step five. 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 surveillance system
monitor, escort driver, and information clerk. 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., AA 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, AA 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.
Rashadv. 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 ...