United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge
pending before the Court is Lori Huber's Petition for
Review of the Respondent's denial of social security
benefits, filed on October 27, 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
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income on March 16, 2012. This
application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and
a hearing was held on January 9, 2014, before Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) James Sherry. After hearing testimony from
Petitioner, her spouse, and a vocational expert, ALJ Sherry
issued a decision on March 7, 2014, finding Petitioner not
disabled. Petitioner timely requested review by the Appeals
Council, which denied her request for review on August 28,
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 January 9, 2014 hearing, Petitioner was
thirty-six years of age. She has a high school education, and
completed a two-year office technology certificate course.
Her prior work experience includes work as a janitor, pulling
green chain, a dietary aide, and a shipping and receiving
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
March 1, 2009.
two, it must be determined whether the claimant suffers from
a severe impairment. The ALJ found Petitioner's
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, status post
discectomy with discogenic pain, radiculopathy, and lumbago;
degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine/cervicalgia;
headaches and greater occipital neuropathy; history of
irritable bowel syndrome and GRD; and depression 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 Listing 1.00 for her
musculoskeletal impairments; Listing 11.14 for peripheral
neuropathies; and Listing 14.09 for inflammatory arthritis,
as well as Listing 12.04 for affective disorder.
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 about the intensity and
persistence of her pain not entirely credible. The ALJ
reconciled the opinions of state agency physicians with
Petitioner's treating physician, Craig Flinders, M.D., as
well as Jackie Gingerich, M.S. The ALJ gave the state agency
physicians' opinions more weight than Petitioner's
treating physician and other care providers, based upon
treatment history or inconsistencies with the record as a
so doing, the ALJ determined Petitioner retained the ability
to perform light work, with limitations on lifting, carrying,
pushing and pulling of 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently, and a sit/stand option every two hours. Further
limitations included only occasional bending, stooping,
crouching, kneeling, crawling, balancing, and ramp/stair
climbing, and to performing simple, routine, repetitive tasks
with simple work related decisions, and no fast-pace
production requirements. (AR 14.)
found Petitioner retained the ability to perform her past
relevant work as a commercial cleaner as she actually had
performed that work. Alternatively, the ALJ 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 production inspector/checker and hand
packager/inspector packer. 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 ...