United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge.
before the Court is Petitioner Gracie Atkinson's
Complaint/Petition for Review (Dkt. 1), seeking review of the
Social Security Administration's decision denying her
application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits
for lack of disability. See generally Compl./Pet.
for Review (Dkt. 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:
October 28, 2014, Petitioner Gracie Atkinson
(“Petitioner”) filed a Title II application for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits,
alleging disability beginning November 20, 2013. This claim
was initially denied on May 12, 2015 and, again, on
reconsideration on August 5, 2015. On September 14, 2015,
Petitioner timely filed a Request for Hearing. On April 20,
2017, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) David
Willis held a hearing in Boise, Idaho, at which time
Petitioner, represented by attorneys Jason K. Baril and Dale
Robbins, appeared and testified. Impartial vocational expert
Sara Statz also appeared and testified.
August 2, 2017, the ALJ issued a Decision denying
Petitioner's claims, finding that she was not disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Petitioner
timely requested review from the Appeals Council and, on May
23, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Petitioner's Request
for Review, making final the ALJ's Decision.
exhausted her administrative remedies, Petitioner timely
filed the instant action, arguing generally that “[t]he
agency committed error of law by denying Appeals Council
review of the decision by the Administrative Law Judge, or
otherwise to deny relief that was within the authority of the
Appeals Council”; “[she] is disabled”; and
“[t]he conclusions and findings of fact of the
Defendant are not supported by substantial evidence and are
contrary to law and regulation.” Compl./Pet. for
Review, p. 2 (Dkt. 1). Specifically, Petitioner claims that
(1) “[t]he [residual functional capacity assessment] is
unsupported by substantial evidence because it is not
supported by medical opinion evidence and the ALJ failed to
fully and fairly develop the record by not obtaining such
evidence”; and (2) “[t]he ALJ failed to properly
evaluate Plaintiff's allegations regarding the
functionally limiting effects of her symptoms.”
Pet.'s Brief, pp. 1, 12-18 (Dkt. 14). Petitioner
therefore requests that the Court either reverse the
ALJ's Decision and find that she is entitled to
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income or, alternatively, remand the case for further
proceedings and award attorneys' fees. See id.
at p. 18; see also Compl./Pet. for Review, p. 2
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 understood to be such relevant evidence as
a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support an
ALJ's finding/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, 565 (1988).
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. 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. ...