United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
E. BUSH, CHIEF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is Petitioner Edwin Dee Timmons's Petition for
Review (Docket No. 1), seeking review of the Social Security
Administration's denial of his application for Social
Security Disability 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
October 29, 2013, Edwin Dee Timmons
(“Petitioner”) protectively filed a Title II
application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning October 11,
2011. This claim was initially denied on February 20, 2014
and, again, on reconsideration on May 23, 2014. On July 23,
2014, Petitioner timely filed a Request for Hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On January 21,
2016, ALJ David Willis held a hearing in Boise, Idaho, at
which time Petitioner, represented by attorney Brad D.
Parkinson, appeared and testified. Polly A. Peterson, an
impartial vocational expert, also appeared and testified at
the same January 21, 2016 hearing.
21, 2016, the ALJ issued a Decision denying Petitioner's
claim, finding that he was not disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act. Petitioner timely requested review
from the Appeals Council and, on August 16, 2017, the Appeals
Council denied Petitioner's Request for Review, making
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security.
exhausted his administrative remedies, Petitioner timely
filed the instant action on September 28, 2017, 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. 2 (Dkt. 1). Specifically, Petitioner claims that
“the ALJ failed to resolve an inconsistency between
vocational expert testimony and the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles, in that the single job listed as
available for [Petitioner] . . . requires a reasoning level .
. . that is above the residual functional capacity given by
the ALJ.” See Pet.'s Brief, pp. 2, 7-8
(Dkt. 17). Petitioner therefore requests that the Court
either reverse the ALJ's decision and find that he is
entitled to disability benefits or, alternatively, remand the
case for further proceedings and award attorneys' fees.
See id. at pp. 8-9; see also Pet. for
Review, p. 2 (Dkt. 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). 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 entire record 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. §§
404.1594, 416.994) - within the meaning of the Social
first step requires the ALJ to determine whether the claimant
is engaged in substantial gainful activity
(“SGA”). See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). SGA is defined as work
activity that is both substantial and gainful.
“Substantial work activity” is work activity that
involves doing significant physical or mental activities.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1572(a), 416.972(a).
“Gainful work activity” is work that is usually
done for pay or profit, whether or not a profit is realized.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1572(b), 416.972(b).
If the claimant has engaged in SGA, disability benefits are
denied, regardless of how severe his physical/mental
impairments are and regardless of his age, education, and
work experience. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If the ...