United States District Court, D. Alaska
GRETCHEN C. HOUSE, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Secretary Administration, Defendant.
RUSSEL HOLLAND UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action for judicial review of the denial of disability
benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434, 1381-1383f. Plaintiff
Gretchen Charmaine House has timely filed her opening brief,
which defendant, Andrew M. Saul,  has timely responded. Oral
argument was not requested and is not deemed necessary.
22, 2016, plaintiff filed applications for disability
benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security
Act, alleging that she became disabled on July 13, 2016.
Plaintiff alleges that she is disabled due to a learning
disability, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and severe depression.
Plaintiff's applications were denied initially, and
plaintiff requested a hearing. After an administrative
hearing on April 6, 2018, an administrative law judge (ALJ)
denied plaintiff's application. Plaintiff sought review
of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. On March 26, 2019, the
Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review,
thereby making the ALJ's May 10, 2018 decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. On April 17, 2019, plaintiff
commenced this action in which she asks the court to review
the Commissioner's final decision.
was born on July 3, 1969. Plaintiff was 47 years old on her
alleged onset date. Plaintiff was in special education
services while in school. She received a GED in her 20s.
Plaintiff's past relevant work was as a 4-1-1 operator,
janitor, bagger, and busser.
first found that plaintiff met “the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31,
then applied the five-step sequential analysis used to
determine whether an individual is disabled.
one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had “not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since July 13, 2016, the alleged
onset date. . . .”
two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had “the following
severe impairments: depression, and mild intellectual
disability. . . .”
three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did “not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. . .
.” The ALJ considered Listings 12.04
(depressive, bipolar and related disorders), 12.05
(intellectual disorder), 12.06 (anxiety and
obsessive-compulsive disorders), and 12.15 (trauma- and
stressor-related disorders). The ALJ considered the
“paragraph B” criteria and found that plaintiff
had moderate limitations in understanding, remembering, or
applying information; marked limitations as to concentrating,
persisting, or maintaining pace; and moderate limitations as
to adapting or managing oneself. But “[b]ecause the
claimant's mental impairments do not cause at least two
‘marked' limitations or one ‘extreme'
limitation, ” the ALJ found that “the
‘paragraph B' criteria are not
satisfied.” The ALJ also found that the
“paragraph C” criteria were not
steps three and four, the ALJ must, as an intermediate step,
assess the claimant's RFC.” Bray v. Comm'r
of Social Security Admin., 554 F.3d 1219, 1222-23 (9th
Cir. 2009). The ALJ found that plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of
work at all exertional levels but with the following
nonexertional limitations. The claimant is limited to simple,
routine, and repetitive tasks. The claimant can have no
changes in the work setting. The claimant can perform work
involving only superficial decision making and not requiring
high production rate such as assembly line
found plaintiff's symptom statements less than credible
because they were inconsistent with the objective medical
evidence, because they were inconsistent with her daily
activities, and because she received unemployment benefits in
the third and fourth quarters of 2016.
considered the lay testimony of plaintiff's
daughter. The ALJ gave Dr. Winn's
opinion some weight but gave more
weight to Dr. Buechner's
four, the ALJ found that plaintiff was “capable of
performing past relevant work as a 4-1-1 operator and
made an alternative step five finding that “there are
other jobs existing in the national economy that [plaintiff]
is also able to perform[, ]” including working as a
parking lot attendant or a car wash attendant.
the ALJ concluded that plaintiff had “not been under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from July
13, 2016, through the date of this decision. . .
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the court has the “power to
enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a
judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of
the Commissioner. . . .” The court “properly
affirms the Commissioner's decision denying benefits if
it is supported by substantial evidence and based on the
application of correct legal standards.” Sandgathe
v. Chater, 108 F.3d 978, 980 (9th Cir. 1997).
“Substantial evidence is ‘more than a mere
scintilla but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Id. (quoting
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995)). “‘To determine whether substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's decision, [the court]
review[s] the administrative record as a whole, weighing both
the evidence that supports and that which detracts from the
ALJ's conclusion.'” Id. (quoting
Andrews, 53 F.3d at 1039). If the evidence is
susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation, the
court must uphold the Commissioner's decision.
Id. But, the Commissioner's decision cannot be
affirmed “‘simply by isolating a specific quantum
of supporting evidence.'” Holohan v.
Massanari, 246 F.3d 1195, 1201 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098 (9th Cir.
argues that the ALJ erred at step four. “At step four
of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ . . . determines
whether the claimant can perform his or her past relevant
work” based on the RFC that the ALJ has assessed.
Johnson v. Colvin, 31 F.Supp.3d 1262, 1272 (E.D.
Wash. 2014). The ALJ found that plaintiff was
limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. The
claimant can have no changes in the work setting. The
claimant can perform work involving only superficial decision
making and not requiring high ...