United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
HONORABLE CANDY W. DALE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
pending before the Court is Darcy McCall's Petition for
Review of the Respondent's denial of social security
benefits, filed on August 8, 2016. (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
AND FACTUAL HISTORY
filed an application for disability insurance benefits and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits under
Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-433, 1381-1383f on September 5, 2013. This
application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and
a hearing was conducted on March 19, 2015, before
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Ben Willner. After considering
testimony from Petitioner and a vocational expert, ALJ
Willner issued a decision on June 4, 2015, finding Petitioner
not disabled. Petitioner timely requested review by the
Appeals Council, which denied her request for review on June
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 alleged disability onset date of December 30,
2012, Petitioner was thirty-eight years of age. Petitioner
completed the ninth grade, and her prior work experience
includes work as a housekeeper, a food service worker, and a
convenience store clerk.
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
December 30, 2012. At step two, it must be determined whether
the claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found
Petitioner's post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and
major depressive disorder severe within the meaning of the
three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal
a listed impairment. The ALJ found that Petitioner's
impairments did not meet or equal the criteria for the listed
impairments, specifically considering Petitioner's mental
impairments under Listings 12.04 (affective disorders) and
12.06 (anxiety-related disorders). The ALJ determined none of
Petitioner's impairments met or equaled the criteria for
the listed impairment considered.
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 symptoms are credible.
the ALJ determined Petitioner's complaints were not
entirely credible based upon Petitioner's daily
activities and the medical evidence of record. Additionally,
upon considering the medical opinion evidence, the ALJ gave
partial weight to the assessments by non-examining state
agency physicians Mack Stephenson, Ph.D., and Scott Shafer,
Ph.D., and little weight to the mental capacity assessment of
Petitioner's treating physician, Michael Millward, M.D.
The ALJ found the medical record did not demonstrate any
the ALJ found Petitioner retained the residual functional
capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional
levels, but because of her mental impairments, Petitioner
would be limited to work that involved simple tasks with
simple instructions that could be learned within a short
demonstration period. The ALJ further limited Petitioner to
working primarily with tangible objects rather than people,
but being able to tolerate minimal contact with coworkers and
the public. Additionally, the ALJ found Petitioner could
maintain concentration, pace, and persistence on a limited
range of tasks for two hours before needing to take a break,
after which she would be able to resume her work.
found Petitioner had past relevant work as a housekeeper.
Because Petitioner did not demonstrate an inability to
perform past relevant work, the ALJ did not reach step five.
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 ...