United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge.
the Court is Petitioner Tina Marie Brewer's Petition for
Review (Docket No. 1), seeking review of the Social Security
Administration's denial of Petitioner's application
for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits for lack of
disability. 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:
October 29, 2013, Tina Marie Brewer
(“Petitioner”) filed an application for
Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging disability beginning
November 15, 2009 (later amended to March 16, 2013). The
claim was initially denied on March 28, 2014 and, again, on
reconsideration on October 8, 2014. On December 4, 2014,
Petitioner timely filed a Request for Hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On January 19,
2016, ALJ Melvin B. Werner held a video hearing in Wichita,
Kansas, at which time Petitioner, represented by her
then-attorney, John L. Brennan, appeared (from Independence,
Kansas) and testified. Impartial vocational expert, Steve L.
Benjamin, also appeared and testified at the same January 19,
February 29, 2016, the ALJ issued a Decision denying
Petitioner's claim, finding that she was not disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Petitioner
timely requested review from the Appeals Council on March 25,
2016 and, on June 12, 2017, the Appeals Council denied
Petitioner's Request for Review, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
exhausted her administrative remedies, Petitioner timely
filed the instant action (through her current attorney, Mark
B. Jones), arguing that “[t]he conclusions and findings
of fact of the [Respondent] are not supported by substantial
evidence and are contrary to law and regulation.” Pet.
for Review, p. 1 (Docket No. 1). Petitioner identifies the
“issues” here as a combination of: (1) whether
the ALJ properly evaluated her mental impairments; (2)
whether the ALJ included Petitioner's credible
limitations into the hypothetical residual functional
capacity posed to the vocational expert; and (3) whether the
ALJ properly developed the record. See generally
Pet.'s Brief, pp. 3-7 (Docket No. 15). Petitioner
therefore requests that the Court either reverse the
ALJ's decision and find that she is entitled to
disability benefits or, alternatively, remand the case for
further proceedings and award attorneys' fees. See
id. at pp. 4-5, 7; see also Pet. for Review, p.
2 (Docket No. 1).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
upheld, the Commissioner's decision must be supported by
substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Matney ex. rel.
Matney v. Sullivan, 981 F.2d 1016, 1019 (9th Cir. 1992);
Gonzalez v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 1197, 1200 (9th Cir.
1990). Findings as to any question of fact, if supported by
substantial evidence, are conclusive. See 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 Hall v. Sec'y of Health, Educ. &
Welfare, 602 F.2d 1372, 1374 (9th Cir. 1979).
evidence” is defined as such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401 (1971); Tylitzki v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 1411, 1413
(9th Cir. 1993); Flaten v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 44 F.3d 1453, 1457 (9th Cir. 1995). The
standard is fluid and nuanced, requiring more than a
scintilla but less than a preponderance (see Sorenson v.
Weinberger, 514 F.2d 1112, 1119 n. 10 (9th Cir. 1975);
Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir.
1989)), 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. See Richardson, 402 U.S. at
401; see also Matney, 981 F.2d at 1019. The ALJ is
responsible for determining credibility and resolving
conflicts in medical testimony (see Allen v.
Heckler, 749 F.2d 577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984)), resolving
ambiguities (see Vincent ex. rel. Vincent v.
Heckler, 739 F.2d 1393, 1394-95 (9th Cir. 1984)), and
drawing inferences logically flowing from the evidence
(see Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639, 642 (9th
Cir. 1982)). Where the evidence is susceptible to more than
one rational interpretation, the reviewing court may not
substitute its judgment or interpretation of the record for
that of the ALJ. See Flaten, 44 F.3d at 1457;
Key v. Heckler, 754 F.2d 1545, 1549 (9th Cir. 1985).
respect to questions of law, the ALJ's decision must be
based on proper legal standards and will be reversed for
legal error. See Matney, 981 F.2d at 1019. The
ALJ's construction of the Social Security Act is entitled
to deference if it has a reasonable basis in law. See
id. 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.” See
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
(see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920) - or
continues to be disabled (see 20 C.F.R. ...