United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division
Jeremiah C. Lynch United States Magistrate Judge.
Gregg Ganz brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
seeking judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security denying his application for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433. Ganz alleges disability since
November 18, 2013, and was last insured for Title II benefits
on December 31, 2014. Ganz's claim was denied initially
and on reconsideration, and he requested an administrative
hearing. On September 7, 2016, the Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) issued a decision finding Ganz not disabled within the
meaning of the Act. The Appeals Council denied Ganz's
request for review, making the ALJ's decision the
agency's final decision for purposes of judicial review.
Jurisdiction vests with this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
was 52 years old at the time of his alleged onset date, and
54 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision.
Standard of Review
Court's review is limited. The Court may set aside the
Commissioner's decision only where the decision is not
supported by substantial evidence or where the decision is
based on legal error. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d
1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005); Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002).
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); Widmark v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 1063,
1070 (9th Cir. 2006).
ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in | medical testimony, and resolving
ambiguities." Edlund v. Massanari, 253 F.3d
1152, 1156 (9th Cir. 2001). This Court must uphold
the Commissioner's findings "if supported by
inferences reasonably drawn from the record." Batson
v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration, 359
F.3d 1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004). "[I]f
evidence exists to support more than one rational
interpretation, " the Court "must defer to the
Commissioner's decision." Batson, 359 F.3d
at 1193 (citing Morgan v. Commissioner, 169 F.3d
595, 599 (9th Cir. 1999). This Court "may not
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner."
Widmark, 454 F.3d at 1070 (quoting Edlund,
253 F.3d at 1156).
Burden of Proof
establish disability, a claimant bears "the burden of
proving an '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.'" Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193-94
(quoting 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)).
determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner
follows a five-step sequential evaluation process. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520. The claimant bears the burden of
establishing disability at steps one through four of this
process. Burch v. Barnhart, 400 F.3d 676, 679
(9th Cir. 2005). At the first step, the ALJ will
consider whether the claimant is engaged in "substantial
gainful activity." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(I).
If not, the ALJ must determine at step two whether the
claimant has any impairments that qualify as
"severe" under the regulations. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If the ALJ finds that the claimant does
have one or more severe impairments, the ALJ will compare
those impairments to the impairments listed in the
regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If the ALJ
finds at step three that the claimant has an impairment that
meets or equals a listed impairment, then the claimant is
considered disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(iii).
however, the claimant's impairments do not meet or equal
the severity of any impairment described in the Listing of
Impairments, then the ALJ must proceed to step four and
consider whether the claimant retains the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform his or her past relevant work. 20
C.F.R. § . 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant
establishes an inability to engage in past work, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner at step five to establish that the
claimant can perform other work in the national economy. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).
found at step one that Ganz last met the insured status
requirements of the Act on December 31, 2014, and had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged
onset date. At step two, the ALJ found that Ganz had the
following severe impairments: osteoarthritis of the knees,
status post right hip replacement, degenerative disc disease
of the neck and lower back, status post cervical
foraminotomies, bilateral rotator cuff tears, and
degenerative changes of the right wrist and hand. The ALJ
concluded at step three that Ganz did not have an impairment
or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled
any impairment described in the Listing of Impairments. The
ALJ also found that Ganz's subjective symptom testimony
was only partially credible. The ALJ concluded that Ganz had
the residual functional capacity to perform a reduced range
of light work. Although the ALJ found that Ganz was not
capable of performing his past relevant work, he concluded
that Ganz was not disabled because there were a significant
number of jobs in the national economy that Ganz could
perform, including work as a bench assembler, small products
assembler, laundry folder, or cashier. (Doc. 4, at 24-37).
argues the ALJ erred by not giving more weight to opinions
provided by two of his treating physicians, and by failing to
consider medical evaluations ...