United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER ON PETITION FOR
Honorable Ronald E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge
pending before the Court is Petitioner Delana Regina
Hyten's Petition for Review (Dkt. 1), seeking review of
the Social Security Administration's final decision to
deny her 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 and Order.
BACKGROUND AND ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS
October 11, 2011, Petitioner applied for Social Security
Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) benefits. She filed
an application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) benefits on October 19, 2011. Each of
these petitions alleged a disability onset date of December
14, 2010. (AR 17). These claims were denied initially on
February 17, 2012, and denied upon reconsideration on
September 14, 2012. (Id.). The Petitioner
thereafter requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) as to both claims, which hearing
was held by video-conference on July 19, 2013. ALJ
Thomas Cheffins presided over the hearing, at which the
Petitioner was present and represented by Mary Kay Fowler, an
attorney. A Vocational Expert, Gretchen A. Bakkenson, gave
testimony at the hearing, as did Petitioner herself.
(Id.) At the time of the hearing, Petitioner was 44
years old and had past relevant work as a retail sales clerk,
as an assistant store manager, a building parts assembler,
and as a psychiatric technician. (AR at 36-40).
August 10, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision denying
Petitioner's claims, finding that Petitioner was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (AR
17-25). On September 17, 2013, Petitioner requested review
from the Appeals Council. (AR 12.) The Appeals Council then
denied review on March 18, 2015, (AR 6-8), making the
ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision.
seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's decision to
deny benefits. Petitioner contends the ALJ failed to accord
proper weight to the opinion evidence in the file. Petitioner
also argues that the ALJ erred in finding that she was not
fully credible as to the limiting effects of pain and other
symptoms arising from primarily from her physical
impairments, which included degenerative disc disease in the
lumbar and cervical spine, bilateral plantar fasciitis, and
obesity. (Petitioner's Brief, Dkt. 15 at p. 2).
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, 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, 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. ...