United States District Court, D. Nevada
DANIEL J. LUTTER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF U.S. MAGISTRATE
Report and Recommendation is made to the Honorable Howard D.
McKibben, United States District Judge. The action was
referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and LR IB 1-4. Before the court is
plaintiff's motion for reversal and/or remand (ECF No.
16) and defendant's cross-motion to affirm (ECF No. 21).
Plaintiff did not file a reply. For the reasons set forth
herein, the court recommends that plaintiff's motion be
denied, and defendant's cross-motion be granted.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
3, 2013, Daniel J. Lutter (“plaintiff”)
protectively filed for Social Security Disability Insurance
(“SSDI”) benefits and a period of disability
under Title II of the Social Security Act. (Administrative
Record (“AR”) 25, 185-95.) Plaintiff additionally
filed for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) on
April 8, 2014. (AR 25.) Plaintiff alleged a disability onset
date of March 14, 2013. (Id. 25, 195-98.) The Social
Security Administration denied plaintiff's application in
the first instance on November 25, 2013, and upon
reconsideration on March 25, 2014. (Id. at 25,
8, 2015, plaintiff and his attorney appeared at a hearing
before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Eileen
Burlison. (Id. at 40-71.) Jacklyn Benson-Dehaan, a
vocational expert (“VE”), also appeared at the
hearing. (Id.) The ALJ issued a written decision on
July 20, 2015, finding that plaintiff had not been disabled
at any time between the alleged onset date and the date of
the decision. (Id. at 22-39.) Plaintiff appealed,
and the Appeals Council denied review on June 13, 2016.
(Id. at 1-7.) Accordingly, the ALJ's decision
became the final decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted all administrative remedies, plaintiff filed a
complaint for judicial review on August 12, 2016. (ECF No.
1-1.) In his motion for remand or reversal, plaintiff
contends that (1) the ALJ's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) assessment as to his mental impairments
lacked the support of substantial evidence, and (2) the
ALJ's credibility determination lacked the support of
substantial evidence. (ECF No. 16.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
initial burden of proof to establish disability in a claim
for SSDI benefits rests upon the claimant. Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012). To satisfy
this burden, the claimant must demonstrate an
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected . . . to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months . . ..” 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).
court has jurisdiction to review an ALJ's decision to
deny a claim for benefits after the claimant has exhausted
all administrative remedies. See Brewes v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec. Admin., 682 F.3d 1157, 1161-62 (9th Cir.
2012). The court must affirm the ALJ's decision unless it
rests on legal error or is unsupported by substantial
evidence in the administrative record. Garrison v.
Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014); see
also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“The findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.”). The
substantial evidence standard is not onerous. It 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.”
Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2012)
(internal quotation omitted).
the ALJ need not discuss every piece of evidence in the
record, she cannot ignore or omit evidence that is
significant or probative. Hiler v. Astrue, 687 F.3d
1208, 1212 (9th Cir. 2012). The ALJ's discussion must
adequately explain the decision in light of such evidence.
ALJ, not the district court, is required to provide specific
reasons for rejecting [the evidence.]” Stout v.
Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 454 F.3d 1050, 1054 (9th
Cir. 2006) (specifically discussing rejection of lay
testimony). The district court's review is thus
constrained to the reasons asserted by the ALJ. Connett
v. Barnhart, 340 F.3d 871, 874 (9th Cir. 2003).
determine whether substantial evidence exists, the court must
look at the record as a whole, considering both evidence that
supports and undermines the ALJ's decision; it “may
not affirm simply by isolating a specific quantum of
supporting evidence.” Robbins v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 466 F.3d 880, 882 (9th Cir. 2006) (internal
quotation omitted). Where “the evidence is susceptible
of more than one rational interpretation, the decision of the
ALJ must be upheld.” Lewis v. Astrue, 498 F.3d
909, 911 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation omitted). The
ALJ alone is responsible for determining credibility and
resolving ambiguities. Garrison, 759 F.3d at 1010.
SSDI claims are evaluated under a five-step sequential
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential process for
determining whether a claimant is “disabled” for
the purposes of SSDI. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4);
see also Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 24 (2003).
Step one directs the ALJ to determine whether the claimant is
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” 20
C.F.R. § ...