Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Huber v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 13, 2017

LORI LEE HUBER, Petitioner,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, [1]Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Currently 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 the Commissioner.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Petitioner 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, 2015.

         Petitioner 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).

         At the 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 clerk.

         SEQUENTIAL PROCESS

         The 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.

         At step 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.

         Step 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.

         If a 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 whole.

         After 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.)

         The ALJ 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.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Petitioner 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. § 423(d)(2)(A).

         On 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).

         The 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).

         When 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.