United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division
KARA L. MATTHEWS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commission of Social Security, Defendant.
Morris, United States District Court Judge.
Kara Matthews filed a Complaint requesting a review of the
Social Security Administration's decision to deny her
disability benefits on July 17, 2017. (Doc. 1). Judge
Johnston entered Findings and Recommendations in this matter
on February 27, 2018. (Doc. 20.)
Johnston recommended the Court grant Matthews's Motion
for Summary Judgment with respect to the Administrative Law
Judge's (“ALJ”) credibility determination and
Dr. Miller's negative statements, and be remanded for
further proceedings. Id. Judge Johnston further
recommended that the Court deny Matthews's Motion for
Summary Judgment in all other respects. Id.
party makes no objections, the Court need not review de
novo the proposed Findings and Recommendations.
Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-52 (1986). This
Court will review Judge Johnston's Findings and
Recommendations, however, for clear error. McDonnell
Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d
1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981).
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
limited. The Court may set aside the Commissioner's
decision only when the substantial evidence does not support
the decision or the Commissioner based the decision on legal
error. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1
(9th Cir. 2005).
Social Security Act regulations provide a five-step
sequential evaluation process for determining whether a
claimant is disabled. Bustamante v. Massanari, 262
F.3d 949, 953 (9th Cir. 2001). The five steps of inquiry are
as follows: (1) Is claimant presently working in a
substantially gainful activity; (2) Is the claimant's
impairment severe; (3) Does the impairment “meet or
equal” one of a list of specific impairments described
in 20 C.F.R. Part 220, Appendix 1; (4) Is the claimant able
to do any work that she has done in the past; and (5) Is the
claimant able to do any other work. Id. at 954. The
claimant has the burden of proof for steps one through four,
and the Commissioner has the burden of proof for step five.
determined under step three, that Matthews did not have an
impairment, or combination of impairments, that met or was
medically equal to one of the listed impairments. (Doc. 20 at
8.) At step four, the ALJ determined that Matthews possessed
the ability to perform past relevant work as a bus monitor
and housing inspector. Id. at 9. At step five, the
ALJ made the alternative determination that Matthews
possessed the ability to make a successful adjustment to
other work. Id. The ALJ determined that Matthews had
not been under a disability since April 30, 2011, and denied
must first determine whether the claimant has presented
objective medical evidence of an underlying impairment
“which could reasonably be expected to produce the pain
or other symptoms alleged.” Garrison v.
Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1014 (9th Cir. 2014). If the
claimant presents this evidence, the “ALJ can only
reject the claimant's testimony about the severity of her
symptoms only by offering specific, clear and convincing
reasons for doing so.” Id. Judge Johnston
determined, and the Court agrees, that the ALJ erred in
failing to point to the specific parts of Matthews's
testimony the ALJ found not credible. (Doc. 20 at 14.) Judge
Johnston further determined, and the Court agrees, that the
ALJ failed to support her credibility determination with
specific, clear, and convincing reasons. Id.
PTSD and Depression
two, a claimant must make a threshold showing that her
medically determinable impairments significantly limit her
ability to perform basic work activities. Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 145 (1987). Matthews argues that
the ALJ failed to incorporate PTSD as an impairment. (Doc. 20
at 16.) Judge Johnston determined, and the Court agrees, that
the ALJ discussed Matthews's PTSD, along with her
depression, and determined that neither condition
significantly limited her mental ability to perform basic
work activities. Id.