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Rader v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 27, 2018



          Candy W. Dale, U.S. Magistrate Judge


         Currently pending before the Court for its consideration is Janice Yvonne Rader's Petition for Review of the Respondent's denial of social security benefits, filed March 22, 2013. (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 remand to the Commissioner with further instructions.


         Petitioner filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on September 4, 2013. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and a hearing was held on October 29, 2015, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) R.J. Payne. After hearing testimony from Petitioner, Daniel R. McKinney Sr., vocational expert, and Lynne Jahnke, medical expert, ALJ Payne issued a decision finding Petitioner not disabled on November 15, 2015. Petitioner timely requested review by the Appeals Council, which denied her request for review on January 23, 2017.

         Petitioner appealed this final agency 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 hearing, Petitioner was 41 years of age. Petitioner has a college degree, and her prior employment experience includes work as a sales clerk, a food truck driver helper, a brick cleaner, and a packer. She claims she became disabled on August 29, 2013 and applied for disability benefits from that date forward.


         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 since her alleged onset date, August 29, 2013. At step two, it must be determined whether the claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found Petitioner's diabetes mellitus type II, hypertension, obesity with a body mass index of 36, right shoulder degenerative disease, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, and migraine headaches severe within the meaning of the Regulations. (AR 12); 20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c).

         Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ considered Petitioner's impairments, both singly and in combination, and found the record did not document clinical findings of abnormality or consistent subjective reports or symptoms of limitations that suggested any impairment that met or equaled a listing. The ALJ further found that no acceptable medical source opined that Petitioner's conditions met or equaled a listing. The ALJ specifically considered and discussed Listing 1.04 (disorders of the spine) and Listing 1.02 (major disfunction of a joint), 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d).

         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. The ALJ found Petitioner has the RFC to perform light exertional level with, with some limitations, and that she can perform her past relevant work as a packager-hand. (AR 18.)

         The ALJ went on, at step five, to conclude that the Petitioner also retains the capacity to make an adjustment to other work that exists in significant levels in the national economy-considering the claimant's residual functional capacity, age, education, and work experience. Specifically, the ALJ concluded that she can perform light work with limitations. Examples of jobs within such limits provided by the vocational expert were production assembler, electronics worker, and garment sorter. (AR 18-19.) The vocational expert identified also sedentary level occupations, including call-out operator and table worker. (AR 19.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded Petitioner was not under a disability from August 29, 2013, the alleged onset date, through November 16, 2015, the date of his decision, and issued a finding of not disabled.


         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 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. § 423(d)(2)(A).

         On review, the Court is 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 relevant evidence 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 ...

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