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Zumwalt v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division

February 12, 2014

SHELLEY ZUMWALT, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT E. JONES, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Shelley Zumwalt appeals the Commissioner's decision denying her concurrent 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

Zumwalt alleged disability beginning June 7, 2003, due to fibromyalgia, depression, post traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), stomach problems, asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"), anemia, and obesity. Admin. R. 236.

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 Zumwalt's ability to perform basic work activities was adversely affected by the combined effects of fibromyalgia, obesity, depression, anxiety disorder, and PTSD. Admin. R. 12. The ALJ found that, despite her impairments, Zumwalt retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform sedentary, simple to moderately complex work, involving no climbing and only occasional postural activities such as stooping or bending, with limited exposure to fumes, dust, gases, extreme temperatures, humidity, heights, and hazards. Admin. R. 13.

The ALJ determined that Zumwalt remained capable of performing the supervismy nursing work she had done in the past. Admin. R. 19. In addition, the vocational expert ("VE") testified that a person having Zumwalt's RFC and work experience could perform the activities required in sedentary, semi-skilled occupations such as receptionist in a doctor's office and medical clerk, representing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the national economy. Admin. R. 20, 57. The ALJ concluded that Zumwalt was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act because she could perform her past work and, in the alternative, because she could perform other jobs in the national economy. Admin. R. 19-20.

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, 1193 (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 the evidence also supports another rational interpretation. Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193; Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039-40 (9th Cir. 1995).

DISCUSSION

I. Claims of Error

The claimant bears the burden of showing that the ALJ erred and that any error was harmful. McLeod v. Astrue, 640 F.3d 881, 886-87 (9th Cir. 2011). Zumwalt contends the ALJ improperly discredited her statements, rejected medical opinions, discounted lay witness statements, and failed to consider her obesity. Zumwalt further contends that the ALJ failed to develop the record and improperly limited her testimony at the administrative hearing. She contends these errors were harmful because they prevented the ALJ from assessing her RFC accurately.

II. RFC Assessment

A claimant's RFC assessment describes the work-related activities the claimant can still do despite the functional limitations imposed by her impairments. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545, 416.945; Social Security Ruling ("SSR") 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184. The ALJ must assess the claimant's RFC based on all the relevant evidence in the case record, and must resolve conflicts in the evidence. SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184 * 5; Batson, 359 F.3d at 1195. Zumwalt challenges the ALJ's factual conclusions regarding her RFC on the grounds that he improperly discredited her ...


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