United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER INTRODUCTION
W. Dale, United States Magistrate Judge
pending before the Court is Richard Dugger's Petition for
Review of the Respondent's denial of social security
benefits, filed on December 23, 2016. (Dkt. 1.) The Court has
reviewed the Petition for Review and the Answer, the
parties' memoranda, and the administrative record (AR).
For the reasons that follow, the Court will affirm the
decision of the Commissioner.
AND FACTUAL HISTORY
filed an application for disability insurance benefits under
Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-433, on April 5, 2012. This application was denied
initially and on reconsideration, and a hearing was conducted
on July 9, 2013, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Arthur
Cahn. ALJ Cahn issued a decision on July 12, 2013, finding
Petitioner not disabled. On December 8, 2014, the Appeals
Council remanded Petitioner's claim because the ALJ
failed to properly evaluate Petitioner's alleged symptoms
related to his ability to use his hands and arms. A second
hearing was held on April 30, 2015, before ALJ Lloyd
Hartford. After hearing testimony from Petitioner and a
vocational expert, ALJ Hartford issued a decision on August
6, 2015, finding Petitioner not disabled. Petitioner timely
requested review by the Appeals Council, which denied his
request for review on October 24, 2016.
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 January 11,
2010, Petitioner was forty-one years of age. Petitioner
completed the tenth grade, and his prior work experience
includes work as an auto glass installer.
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 his alleged onset date of
January 11, 2010. At step two, it must be determined whether
the claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found
Petitioner's thoracic outlet syndrome, brachial plexus
neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome, degenerative disc
disease in the cervical and thoracic spine, and asthma,
severe within the meaning of the Regulations.
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
thoracic outlet syndrome, brachial plexus neuropathy, and
complex regional pain syndrome under Listing 11.14, which
pertains to peripheral neuropathies. 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 residual
functional capacity, the ALJ determines whether
Petitioner's complaints about the intensity, persistence
and limiting effects of his symptoms are credible.
the ALJ determined Petitioner's complaints were not
entirely credible based upon certain inconsistencies in
Petitioner's testimony and the medical evidence of
record. Additionally, upon considering the medical opinion
evidence, the ALJ gave significant weight to the assessments
by non-examining state agency physicians Ward Dickey, M.D.,
and Michael Spackman, M.D., and limited weight to the
physical capacity assessment by Petitioner's treating
physician, Nita Weber, D.O., and to the assessment by Richard
Head, M.D., who performed a consultative examination.
the ALJ found Petitioner retained the residual functional
capacity to perform sedentary work. The ALJ found Petitioner
retained the ability to lift and carry 10 pounds
occasionally, push and pull 10 pounds occasionally,
stand/walk for 2 hours per day, sit for 6 hours per day, and
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
found Petitioner had past relevant work as an auto glass
installer, but because it required medium physical exertion
as generally performed, and heavy exertion as actually
performed, the ALJ concluded Petitioner did not retain an
ability to perform his past relevant work. If a claimant
demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant work, 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
the ALJ found Petitioner retained the ability to perform the
requirements of representative occupations such as order
clerk, telephone information clerk, and janitor/cleaner. With
the exception of the janitor/cleaner job, which is classified
as light-unskilled work, the remaining occupations are
classified as sedentary unskilled work. 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 his physical or mental impairments are of
such severity that he not only cannot do his previous work
but is unable, considering his 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