United States District Court, D. Idaho
KEITH L. CAMPBELL, Petitioner,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
W. DALE U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the Court is Petitioner Keith L. Campbell'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, and for the reasons
that follow, will affirm the decision of the Commissioner.
AND FACTUAL HISTORY
filed a Title II application for Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on June 30, 2013,
claiming disability beginning May 15, 2013. This application
was denied initially and on reconsideration, and a video
hearing was conducted on July 14, 2015, before Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) Michele M. Kelley. After hearing testimony
from Petitioner and vocational expert Bob G. Zadow, ALJ
Kelley issued a decision finding Petitioner not disabled on
August 27, 2015. Petitioner timely requested review by the
Appeals Council, which denied his request for review on April
20, 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).
time of the hearing, Petitioner was 34 years of age.
Petitioner has completed one year of college-level studies
and has also completed a certified nursing assistant training
course. Petitioner's prior employment experience includes
work as a personal care attendant, psychiatric aid, nursing
assistant, and medical assistant.
Commissioner follows a five-step evaluation for determining
whether a claimant is disabled. 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 his alleged onset date, May 15, 2013. At step
two, it must be determined whether the claimant suffers from
a severe impairment. The ALJ found Petitioner's clotting
disorder, post thrombotic disorder, and pulmonary emboli
severe within the meaning of the Regulations. 20 C.F.R.
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 the listed
impairments, specifically considering Listing 7.08, disorders
of thrombosis and hemostasis. (AR 22.) 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.
found Petitioner was able to perform his past relevant work
as personal care attendant and maintenance assistant. The ALJ
determined also, at step five, that Petitioner retains the
capacity to make an adjustment to other work that exists in
significant levels in the national economy, after considering
the claimant's residual functional capacity, age,
education and work experience. The ALJ concluded Petitioner
would be able to perform the requirements of representative
occupations such as: production assembler, inspector and hand
packager, and packing line worker. (AR 29.) As such, the ALJ
found Petitioner has not been under a disability from May 15,
2013, the alleged onset date, through the date of her
determination, August 27, 2015.
bears the burden of showing that disability benefits are
proper because of 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 his 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.
claimant may obtain review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security by a civil action filed in
federal district court. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The SSA
regulations provide the definition of “final
decision.” Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107,
(2000). When the Appeals Council grants review of a claim,
the decision issued by the Council is the Commissioner's
final decision. Id. However, if the Appeals Council
denies the claimant's request for review, the ALJ's
decision is the final decision of the Commissioner.
Id. In this matter, the Appeals Council denied
Petitioner's request for review. (AR at 1.) Therefore,
the ALJ's decision is the decision of the Commissioner in
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; however, the credibility assessment is entitled to
great weight; 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).
matter, Petitioner contends the ALJ erred at step three by
failing to give controlling weight to the opinion of his
treating physician and by failing to properly assess
Petitioner's credibility. Additionally, Petitioner argues
the ALJ erred at step four by failing to consider all
functional limitations in her determination of his RFC.
Independent of Petitioner's arguments regarding the
ALJ's decision, he contends that an opinion letter
written by his treating physician after the date of the
ALJ's decision and submitted to the Appeals Council was
erroneously omitted from the administrative record. He
attached the letter to his opening brief before the Court.
Petitioner argues that the medical opinion expressed in the
letter should be included in the Court's consideration
and be afforded controlling weight. The Court will first
review Petitioner's arguments regarding the ALJ's
decision and will next discuss the letter submitted to the
The Administrative Law ...