United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
E. BUSH CHIEF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court is Petitioner Loretta Wright’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
and Supplemental Security Income 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:
December 20, 2016, Petitioner Loretta Wright
(“Petitioner”) filed a Title II application for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits; also
on December 20, 2016, Petitioner protectively filed a Title
XVI application for supplemental security income. In both
applications, Petitioner alleged disability beginning May 1,
2016. These claims were denied on March 22, 2017 and, again,
on reconsideration on June 8, 2017. On July 10, 2017,
Petitioner timely filed a Request for Hearing. On December
21, 2017, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) David
Willis held a hearing in Boise, Idaho, at which time
Petitioner, represented by attorneys Bradford D. Myler and
Liberty Straney, appeared and testified. Impartial vocational
expert Sara Statz also appeared and testified.
February 28, 2018, 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
April 17, 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
the “[residual functional capacity assessment] is
unsupported by substantial evidence because the ALJ failed to
afford adequate weight to the opinion of PT Berg.”
Pet.’s Brief, pp. 1, 9 (Dkt. 17). 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. 14;
see also Compl./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 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.
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.