United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Honorable Candy W. Dale, United States Magistrate Judge
before the Court is Kathleen Grace Delia’s Petition for
Review of the Respondent’s denial of social security
benefits, filed July 16, 2018. (Dkt. 1.) The Court has
reviewed the Petition, Answer, the parties’ memoranda,
and the administrative record (AR). For the reasons that
follow, the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.
AND FACTUAL HISTORY
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income on November 5, 2014, claiming
disability beginning July 15, 2014. This application was
denied initially and on reconsideration, and a hearing was
held on January 13, 2017, before Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) Lloyd E. Hartford. After hearing testimony from
Petitioner; a medical expert, Colette Valette, Ph.D.; and a
vocational expert, Jerry Gravatt, the ALJ issued a decision
finding Petitioner not disabled on June 7, 2017. Petitioner
timely requested review by the Appeals Council, which denied
her request for review on May 11, 2018.
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 54 years of age.
Petitioner has a high school education and attended special
education classes. Petitioner’s prior work experience
includes work as a retail specialist, auto-parts deliverer,
retail laborer, retail sales, and auto shop secretary.
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation for
determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 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 her alleged onset date of
July 15, 2014.
two, it must be determined whether the claimant suffers from
a severe impairment. The ALJ found Petitioner’s
obesity, autoimmune hepatitis, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
(NASH), and undifferentiated connective tissue disease were
severe impairments within the meaning of the Regulations.
However, the ALJ found Petitioner’s fibromyalgia,
depression, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and borderline
personality disorder were nonsevere impairments. In so
finding, the ALJ discussed the medical evidence in the
record. The ALJ assigned limited weight to the opinion of
Petitioner’s treating therapist, Chester Mardis,
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), and the
state agency reviewing physicians. The ALJ gave significant
weight to the opinion of the medical expert who testified at
the hearing, Colette Valette, Ph.D., clinical psychologist.
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 listing
5.05 (Chronic Liver Disease) and listing 14.06
(Undifferentiated and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease).
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 demonstrated an inability to perform
past relevant work. The ALJ determined Petitioner retained
the RFC to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b) with some physical limitations on her ability to
lift, carry, push, or pull certain weights; stand, walk,
and/or sit; climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; perform fine hand manipulations; and that
Petitioner should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold
and heat, odors, dust, gases, and fumes; avoid working near
hazards such as heights and around machinery; but that
Petitioner had no visual or communicative limitations. (AR
determining the RFC, the ALJ found the Petitioner’s
impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged
symptoms, but that Petitioner’s statements concerning
the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of the
symptoms were not entirely consistent with the evidence in
the record. The ALJ reviewed the evidence in the record and
discounted the opinion of one of Petitioner’s treating
physicians, Brad Hyatt, D.O., and also gave limited weight to
the state agency reviewing physicians and the lay statements
of Petitioner’s mother and husband.
found Petitioner was able to perform her past relevant work
as a stock clerk. Therefore, the ALJ determined Petitioner
was not disabled and did not proceed to step five where the
burden would have shifted to the Commissioner to demonstrate
that the claimant retained the capacity to make an adjustment
to other work that exists in significant levels in the
national economy, after considering the claimant’s RFC,
age, education and work experience.
bears the burden of showing that disability benefits are
proper because of the 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 their physical or mental impairments are of
such severity that they not only cannot do their previous
work, but are also unable, considering her 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. § 423(d)(2)(A).
review, the Court is instructed to uphold the decision of the
Commissioner if the decision was supported by substantial
evidence and was 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’s testimony; however, an ALJ’s
credibility assessment is entitled to great weight, and 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 ...