United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
E. BUSH, CHIEF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the Court is Petitioner Brenda Lee Sullender's
Complaint/Petition for Review (Docket No. 1), seeking review
of the Social Security Administration's decision denying
her applications for Social Security Disability Insurance
benefits and Supplemental Security Income for lack of
disability. See generally Compl./Pet. for Review
(Docket No. 1). 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:
September 24, 2014, Petitioner Brenda Lee Sullender
(“Petitioner”) filed applications for Title II
Disability Insurance benefits and Title XVI Supplemental
Security Income, alleging disability beginning August 1,
2012. Both claims were denied on December 31, 2014 and,
again, on reconsideration on March 13, 2015. On March 30,
2015, Petitioner timely filed a Request for Hearing. On
February 15, 2017, Administrative Law Judge Stephen Marchioro
held a hearing in Pocatello, Idaho, at which time Petitioner,
represented by attorney Dan Bott appeared and testified.
Impartial vocational expert, Sara Statz, also appeared and
March 22, 2017, 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 a review from the Appeals Council and, on
December 15, 2017, the Appeals Council denied
Petitioner's Request for Review, making final the
exhausted her administrative remedies, Petitioner timely
filed the instant action, 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.” Compl./Pet. for Review, p. 2 (Docket No.
1). In particular, Petitioner argues that “[t]he
[residual functional capacity assessment] is unsupported by
substantial evidence because the ALJ failed to follow the
treating physician rule and the [residual functional
capacity] is not supported by any medical opinion.”
Mem. ISO Pet. for Review, pp. 7-13 (Docket No. 17).
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 p. 13; see also Compl./Pet. for
Review/Compl., 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 requires 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,
questions of fact, the Court's role is to review the
record as a whole to determine whether it contains evidence
allowing a reasonable mind to accept the conclusions reached
by 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 within
the medical testimony (see Allen v. Heckler, 749
F.2d 577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984)), resolving any 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 contained in the record
(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).
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. At the same time, 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. ...