United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Honorable Ronald E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge.
pending before the Court is Petitioner Kelly Dan Green's
Petition for Review (Dkt. 2), filed on August 15, 2015,
seeking review of the Social Security Administration's
final decision to deny him disability benefits. 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
BACKGROUND AND ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS
February 14, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision denying
Petitioner's claims and finding that Petitioner was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (AR
14-23). On or about March 14, 2014, Petitioner requested
review from the Appeals Council. (AR 10.) The Appeals Council
affirmed the ALJ's decision. Plaintiff now seeks judicial
review of the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits.
Petitioner contends the ALJ erred by failing to accord proper
weight to the opinion evidence in the file, and in
particular, by disregarding the opinions of Petitioner's
treating family practice doctor and examining psychologist.
He also argues that the ALJ erred in finding that his
subjective complaints of pain were less than fully credible,
and in deciding to give little weight to the written
statements from third parties that discussed Petitioner's
limited ability to engage in daily activities.
(Petitioner's Brief, Dkt. 17, at 6-16).
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); Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d
1273, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); 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); Webb v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 683, 686
(9th Cir. 2005); 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 of evidence, 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,
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, and for resolving
ambiguities. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 12035, 1039
(9th Cir. 1995); Allen v. Heckler, 749
F.2d 577, 579 (9th Cir. 1989). The ALJ is also responsible
for drawing inferences logically flowing from the evidence,
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 frustrates the
congressional purpose underlying the statute.”
Smith v. Heckler, 820 F.2d 1093, 1094 (9th Cir.
evaluating the evidence presented at an administrative
hearing, the ALJ must follow a sequential process in
determining whether a person is disabled in general
(see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920) - or
continues to be disabled (see 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1594, 416.994) - within the meaning of the Social
first step requires the ALJ to determine whether the claimant
is engaged in substantial gainful activity
(“SGA”). 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(I), 416.920(a)(4)(I). SGA is defined as work
activity that is both substantial and gainful.
“Substantial work activity” is work activity that
involves doing significant physical or mental activities. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1572(a), 416.972(a). “Gainful
work activity” is work that is usually done for pay or
profit, whether or not a profit is realized. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1572(b), 416.972(b). If the claimant has
engaged in SGA, disability benefits are denied, regardless of
how severe her physical/mental impairments are and regardless
of his age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If the claimant is not
engaged in SGA, the analysis proceeds to the second step.
Here, the ALJ found that although Petitioner had done
“odd jobs” since the alleged onset date of
disability, these activities did not bring him more than a
few hundred dollars a month and therefore did not rise to the
level of substantial gainful activity. (AR 16).
second step requires the ALJ to determine whether the
claimant has a medically determinable impairment, or
combination of impairments, that is severe and meets the
duration requirement. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii),
416.920(a)(4)(ii). An impairment or combination of
impairments is “severe” within the meaning of the
Social Security Act if it significantly limits an
individual's ability to perform basic work activities. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). An impairment or
combination of impairments is “not severe” when
medical and other evidence establish only a slight
abnormality or a combination of slight abnormalities that
would have no more than a minimal effect on an
individual's ability to work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1521, 416.921. If the claimant does not have a severe
medically determinable impairment or combination of
impairments, disability benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). Here, the ALJ ...