United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge.
pending before the Court is Kristina Kay Lockman's
Petition for Review of the Respondent's denial of social
security benefits, filed on March 17, 2017. (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.
AND FACTUAL HISTORY
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income on July 16, 2013, alleging
disability beginning July 11, 2013. This application was
denied initially and on reconsideration, and a hearing was
conducted on December 2, 2015, before Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Marie Palachuk. After hearing testimony from
Petitioner, medical experts Haddon Alexander, M.D., and Nancy
Winfrey, Ph.D., and from vocational expert Sharon Welter, ALJ
Palachuk issued a decision finding Petitioner not disabled on
December 21, 2015. Petitioner timely requested review by the
Appeals Council, which denied her request for review on
January 17, 2017.
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 December 2, 2015 hearing, Petitioner was
forty-one years of age. Petitioner completed the ninth grade,
and her prior work experience includes work as a floor
attendant, a gambling cashier, a surveillance system monitor,
and an attendant at a children's institution.
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 after her alleged onset date of
July 11, 2013. At step two, it must be determined whether the
claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found
Petitioner's morbid obesity, obstructive sleep apnea,
osteoarthritis of the knees, and chronic pain 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 any listed
impairments, specifically considering Listings 1.00 and 3.00
pertaining to the musculoskeletal system and respiratory
system. 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.
determined Petitioner retained the RFC to perform sedentary
work. She could occasionally climb ramps or stairs, balance
and stoop. She could never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds, kneel, crouch, or crawl. She should avoid
concentrated exposure to respiratory irritants and all
exposure to hazards, and no walking on uneven terrain. (AR
upon the RFC assessment, the ALJ found Petitioner was able to
perform her past relevant work as a floor attendant, gambling
cashier, and surveillance system monitor. Accordingly, the
ALJ did not proceed to step five.
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 the judge
of credibility will be upheld as based on substantial
evidence. Matthews v. Shalala, 10 F.3d 678, 679-80
(9th Cir. 1993).
argues the ALJ erred at step four, contending the ALJ
improperly evaluated the opinion of examining physician J.
Craig Stevens, M.D., and treating physician Michael Snyder,
M.D. Petitioner asserts Dr. Stevens's consultative
examination report was incomplete, and therefore the ALJ
failed to fulfill her duty to develop the record by ordering
a second consultative examination. Further, Petitioner argues
the ALJ did not consider Petitioner's sleep apnea and its
effect upon Petitioner's ability to work. Respondent
disagrees, arguing the ALJ had no further duty to develop the
record and appropriately weighed the physician opinions in