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Jones v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 9, 2018

CHRISTOPHER PAUL JONES, Petitioner,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Honorable Candy W. Dale, United States Magistrate Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Christopher Jones's Petition for Review of the Respondent's denial of social security benefits. (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 AND FACTUAL HISTORY

         Petitioner filed a Title II application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on January 2, 2014, alleging disability beginning July 15, 2008. This application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and a hearing was conducted on March 28, 2016, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Jesse Shumway. After hearing testimony from Petitioner, from medical expert Harold Milstein, M.D., and from vocational expert Thomas Polsin, ALJ Shumway issued a decision on April 21, 2016, finding Petitioner not disabled. (AR 12-17.)[1] Petitioner requested review by the Appeals Council, which denied his request for review on March 3, 2017.

         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 March 28, 2016 hearing, Petitioner was forty-eight years of age. Petitioner completed high school and two years of college, and his prior work experience includes work as a drafter, shipping and receiving clerk, bicycle assembler, cabinet assembler, and noodle maker. He alleged disability because of mental health conditions; extreme anxiety; severe, painful, and debilitating chronic head injury; chronic homelessness; learning disability; severe depression; and head trauma injury. (AR 162.)

         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 after his alleged onset date of July 15, 2008. At step two, it must be determined whether the claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found Petitioner did not meet his burden of establishing that he had a medically determinable impairment at step two. Accordingly, the ALJ found Petitioner not disabled and did not proceed to consider steps three through five.

         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 his physical or mental impairments are of such severity that he not only cannot do her 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. § 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 ...


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