United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
HONORABLE RONALD E. BUSH CHIEF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
is Petitioner Shawn Duane Cook's Petition for Review
(Dkt. 1), appealing the Social Security Administration's
final decision finding him not disabled and denying his claim
for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. See 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.
August 21, 2015, Petitioner Shawn Duane Cook
(“Petitioner”) protectively applied for Title II
disability and disability insurance benefits and for Title
XVI supplemental security income. (AR 15.) Petitioner alleged
disability beginning May 7, 2015. (Id.) His claims
were denied initially on October 2, 2015 and then again on
reconsideration on December 3, 2015. (Id.) On
December 23, 2015, Petitioner timely filed a written request
for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Id.) Petitioner testified at a
hearing held on February 1, 2017 in Spokane, Washington, as
did impartial medical expert Robert Thompson, M.D., and
impartial vocational expert Sharon Welter. (Id.) The
hearing was continued in order to obtain a consultative
physical examination, after which a supplemental hearing was
held September 7, 2017, in Spokane, Washington.
(Id.) Petitioner and impartial vocational expert
Anne Jones appeared and testified at the supplemental
February 22, 2018, ALJ Lori L. Freund issued a decision
denying Petitioner's claim, finding that Petitioner was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
during the period from his alleged onset date through the
date of the decision. (AR 27.) Petitioner timely requested
review from the Appeals Council on March 19, 2018. (AR 278).
On November 28, 2018, the Appeals Council denied
Petitioner's Request for Review, making the ALJ decision
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security.
exhausted administrative remedies, Petitioner filed this
case. He contends 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 1 (Dkt. 1). Petitioner argues that the ALJ erred
by classifying Petitioner's RFC as “light”
rather than “sedentary” and that the ALJ erred by
applying the “grid rules” with the
“light” exertional level. See generally
Pet'r's Mem. (Dkt. 13). Petitioner asks that the case
be reversed and remanded for an immediate award of benefits.
Id. at 9.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
upheld, the Commissioner's decision must be supported by
substantial evidence and based on proper legal standards. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d
664 (9th Cir. 2017). Findings as to any question of fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. 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 Treichler v. Comm'r of Social Sec. Admin.,
775 F.3d 1090, 1098 (9th Cir. 2014).
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); Ludwig v. Astrue, 681 F.3d 1047,
1051 (9th Cir. 2012). The standard requires more than a
scintilla but less than a preponderance (Trevizo,
871 F.3d at 674), 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 Court is to review the
record as a whole to decide whether it contains evidence that
would allow a person of a reasonable mind to accept the
conclusions of the ALJ. Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401;
see also Ludwig, 681 F.3d at 1051. The ALJ is
responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts
in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.
Treichler, 775 F.3d at 1098. Where the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the
reviewing court must uphold the ALJ's findings if they
are supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record.
Ludwig, 681 F.3d at 1051. In such cases, the
reviewing court may not substitute its judgment or
interpretation of the record for that of the ALJ. Batson
v. Comm'r of Social Sec., 359 F.3d 1190, 1196 (9th
decision must be based on proper legal standards and will be
reversed for legal error. Zavalin v. Colvin, 778
F.3d 842, 845 (9th Cir. 2015); Treichler, 775 F.3d
at 1098. Considerable weight is given to the ALJ's
construction of the Social Security Act. See Vernoff v.
Astrue, 568 F.3d 1102, 1105 (9th Cir. 2009). However,
this Court “will not rubber-stamp an administrative
decision that is inconsistent with the statutory mandate or
that frustrates the congressional purpose underlying the
statute.” 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 (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920) - or continues to be
disabled (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1594, 416.994) - within
the meaning of the Social Security Act.
first step requires the ALJ to determine whether the claimant
is engaged in substantial gainful activity
(“SGA”). 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). SGA is work activity
that is both substantial and gainful. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1572, 416.972. “Substantial work activity” is
work activity that involves doing significant physical or
mental activities. 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. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1572(b), 416.972(b). If
the claimant is engaged in SGA, disability benefits are
denied regardless of his medical condition, age, education,
and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
416.920(b). If the claimant is not engaged in SGA, the