United States District Court, D. Idaho
LARRY D. ANDERSON, Petitioner,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Honorable Ronald E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge
is Petitioner Larry D. Anderson's Petition for Review
(Dkt. 1), appealing the Social Security Administration's
final decision finding him not disabled and denying his claim
for disability insurance benefits. See generally Pet.
for Review (Dkt. 1). This action is brought pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g). Having carefully considered the
record and otherwise being fully advised, the Court enters
the following Memorandum Decision and Order:
February 22, 2013, Larry D. Anderson
(“Petitioner”) protectively applied for Title II
disability and disability insurance benefits. (AR 17.)
Petitioner alleged disability beginning January 15, 2012.
(Id.) His claim was denied initially on May 30, 2013
and then again on reconsideration on December 24, 2013.
(Id.) On January 2, 2014, Petitioner timely filed a
Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Id.) On April 30, 2015, ALJ
Lloyd E. Hartford held a video hearing from Billings, Montana
during which Petitioner, represented by counsel, appeared and
testified by video from Idaho Falls, Idaho. (Id.)
Impartial vocational expert Kent Granat also appeared and
29, 2015, the ALJ issued a Decision denying Petitioner's
claim, finding that Petitioner was not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act during the relevant
period. (AR 26.) Petitioner requested review from the Appeals
Council on June 29, 2015. (AR 12.) On September 14, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied Petitioner's Request for Review,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security. (AR 1.)
exhausted his administrative remedies, Petitioner timely
filed the instant action. He contends that “the denial
of his disability claim is not supported by substantial
evidence under the standards set forth by 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) and all other applicable laws and regulations,
including the weight of the evidence, his credibility, the
medical opinions of his doctors, and any and all other
applicable evidentiary issues, both in law and in
fact.” Pet. for Review 2 (Dkt. 1). Petitioner
challenges the sufficiency of the evidence on which the ALJ
relied and the legal correctness of the ALJ's treatment
of Petitioner's medical source statements and
Petitioner's credibility. See generally
Pet'r's Br. (Dkt. 17). Petitioner asks the Court to
reverse the ALJ's decision and remand for the SSA to hold
a supplemental hearing. Id.
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); Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d
664 (9th Cir. 2017). 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.
See Treichler v. Comm'r of Social Sec. Admin.,
775 F.3d 1090, 1098 (9th Cir. 2014).
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); Ludwig v. Astrue, 681 F.3d 1047,
1051 (9th Cir. 2012). The standard requires more than a
scintilla but less than a preponderance (Trevizo,
871 F.3d at 674), 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. Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401;
see also Ludwig, 681 F.3d at 1051. The ALJ is
responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts
in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.
Treichler, 775 F.3d at 1098. Where the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the
reviewing court must uphold the ALJ's findings if they
are supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record.
Ludwig, 681 F.3d at 1051. In such cases, the
reviewing court may not substitute its judgment or
interpretation of the record for that of the ALJ. Batson
v. Comm'r of Social Sec., 359 F.3d 1190, 1196 (9th
respect to questions of law, the ALJ's decision must be
based on proper legal standards and will be reversed for
legal error. Zavalin v. Colvin, 778 F.3d 842, 845
(9th Cir. 2015); Treichler, 775 F.3d at 1098.
Considerable weight must be given to the ALJ's
construction of the Social Security Act. See Vernoff v.
Astrue, 568 F.3d 1102, 1105 (9th Cir. 2009). 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. 1987).
evaluating the evidence presented at an administrative
hearing, the ALJ must follow a sequential process in
determining whether a person is disabled in general (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920) - or continues to be
disabled (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1594, 416.994) - within
the meaning of the Social Security Act.
first step requires the ALJ to determine whether the claimant
is engaged in substantial gainful activity
(“SGA”). 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). SGA is work activity
that is both substantial and gainful. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1572, 416.972. “Substantial work activity” is
work activity that involves doing significant physical or
mental activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1572(a),
416.972(a). “Gainful work activity” is work that
is usually done for pay or profit, whether or not a profit is
realized. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1572(b), 416.972(b). If
the claimant is engaged in SGA, disability benefits are
denied regardless of his medical condition, age, education,
and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
416.920(b). If the claimant is not engaged in SGA, the
analysis proceeds to the second step. Here, the ALJ found
that Petitioner did not engage in substantial gainful
activity from his alleged onset date of January 15, 2012
through his date last insured of December 31, 2014. (AR 19.)
second step requires the ALJ to determine whether the
claimant has a medically determinable impairment, or
combination of impairments, that is severe and meets the
duration requirement. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii),
416.920(a)(4)(ii). An impairment or combination of
impairments is “severe” within the meaning of the
Social Security Act if it significantly limits an
individual's physical or mental ability to perform basic
work activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c),
416.920(c). An impairment or combination of impairments is
“not severe” when medical and other evidence
establishes only a slight abnormality or a combination of
slight abnormalities that cause no more than minimal
limitation on an individual's ability to work. SSR 96-3p,
1996 WL 374181 (July 2, 1996); see also 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1521, 416.921. If the claimant does not have
a severe medically determinable impairment or combination of
impairments, disability benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). Here, the ALJ found
that Petitioner has the following severe impairments:
“lumbar spondylosis, bilateral rotator cuff syndrome,
diabetes mellitus, and obesity.” (AR 19.)
third step requires the ALJ to determine the medical severity
of any impairments; that is, whether the claimant's
impairments meet or equal a listed impairment under 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the answer is
yes, the claimant is considered disabled under the Social
Security Act and benefits are awarded. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(d), 416.920(d). If the claimant's impairments
neither meet nor equal a listed impairment, his claim cannot
be resolved at step three and the evaluation proceeds to step
four. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). Here,
the ALJ concluded that Petitioner does not have an impairment
or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals
the severity of one of the listed impairments. (AR 20-21.)
fourth step of the evaluation process requires the ALJ to
determine whether the claimant's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) is sufficient for the claimant
to perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). An individual's
RFC is his ability to do physical and mental work activities
on a sustained basis despite limitations from his
impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545, 416.945. An
individual's past relevant work is work he performed
within the last 15 years or 15 years prior to the date that
disability must be established, as long as the work was
substantial gainful activity and lasted long enough for the
claimant to learn to do the job. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1560(b), 404.1565, 416.960(b), 416.965. Here, the ALJ
determined that Petitioner had the RFC:
to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c)
except as follows: The claimant had the ability to lift
and/or carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently,
stand and/or walk with normal breaks for 6 hours in an 8-hour
workday, sit with normal breaks for 6 hours in an 8-hour
workday; climb, stoop and crouch only occasionally; and
should avoid concentrated exposure to unprotected heights.
(AR 21-25.) The ALJ further found that Petitioner is able to
perform his past relevant work as an HVAC ...