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Slayter v. Astrue

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

November 14, 2013

KRISTINA KAY SLAYTER, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT E. JONES, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kristina Kay Slayter appeals the Commissioner's decision denying her applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. The court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). I AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

Slayter filed her applications in October 28, 2009 initially alleging disability beginning in July 2009.[1] Tr. 155. That same day, she amended her application to claim an onset date of March 24, 1968, the date of her birth. Tr. 157. She alleged she could not work due to borderline intellectual functioning, an adjustment disorder and anxiety. The claims were denied initially in January 2010 and upon reconsideration in April 2010.

The ALJ applied the sequential disability determination process described in 20 C.F.R. sections 404.1520 and 416.920. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140 (1987). The ALJ found that Slayter engaged in significant gainful activity. The ALJ also found that Slayter has severe impingements including borderline intellectual function, adjustment disorder and anxiety disorder, which cause more than a minimal effect on her ability to perform work-related activities. Tr. 16. The ALJ found that although Slayter could not return to her past relevant work because it required more than occasional contact with the public and coworkers, Slayter retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of work at all exertion levels, as long as it was limited to performing simple, routine tasks with little, if any, contact with the public and no more than occasional contact with coworkers. Tr. 18.

The vocational expert ("VE") testified that a person having Slayter's RFC and vocational factors could perform the activities in occupations requiring simple, routine tasks such as production line assembly or housekeeping/cleaning, representing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the national economy. Tr. 90. The ALJ concluded that Slayter was not disabled. Tr. 21. The Appeals Council declined Slayter's request to review the ALJ's decision and she filed this action seeking payment of benefits.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The district court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on proper legal standards and the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190 (9th Cir. 2004). Under this standard, the Commissioner's factual findings must be upheld if supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record even if evidence exists to support another rational interpretation. Batson, 359 F.3d. at 1193; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d. 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995). Furthermore, when a claimant has filed unsuccessful applications for social security, the ongoing presumption of continuing nondisability must be overcome by claimant proving "changed circumstances indicating a greater disability." Chavez v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 691, 693 (9th Cir. 1988).

DISCUSSION

I. Claims of Error

In making his decision regarding Slayter's RFC, the ALJ relied on the testimony of the claimant, her application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income along with the supporting documentation, her past employment history, her medical records including her physical and mental evaluations and reports, and the function report Toni Kloch submitted. Slayter contends that in making his determination that Slayter retained the RFC described previously, the ALJ failed to give clear and convincing reasons for rejecting the statements of Slayter and her friend Toni Kloch, and the opinion of Dr. Roman. Slayter also contends that the Commissioner failed to meet his burden of proving that jobs exist in the national economy that Slayter can perform

II. RFC Assessment

A. Slayter's Statements

Slayter claims that she has been disabled since birth. She testified that she received a modified high school diploma. While in high school, Slayter worked at Papa's Pizza doing dishes and at a delicatessen preparing sandwiches. Tr. 66. Following high school, she obtained employment at Wal-Matt where she worked in the snack bar. While employed at Wal-Matt, she experienced difficulties making change to customers and working ...


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