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Troupe v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 12, 2014

THOMAS TROUPE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

JAMES P. DONOHUE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Thomas Troupe represents himself and appeals the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") which denied his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33 and 1381-83f, after a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). Plaintiff filed an opening brief, which substantially violated the terms of the scheduling order imposed by the Court.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that the Commissioner's decision be reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

At the time of the administrative hearing, plaintiff was a 40 year-old man with a high school education. Administrative Record ("AR") at 68, 36. His past work experience includes employment as a fish filleter, fisherman, and a welder. AR at 35. Plaintiff was last gainfully employed in January 2007. AR at 25.

On March 28, 2008, plaintiff filed a claim for SSI payments. On April 10, 2008, he filed an application for DIB, alleging an onset date of January 1, 2001, subsequently amended to January 6, 2007. AR at 22. Plaintiff asserts that he is disabled due to posttraumatic arthritis status post right hip fracture; status post methamphetamine overdose with multisystem failure; polysubstance dependence; depression and schitzophrenia.

The Commissioner denied plaintiff's claim initially and on reconsideration. AR at 22. Plaintiff requested a hearing which took place on October 23, 2009 and February 23, 2010. AR at 47-120. On April 16, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled and denied benefits based on his finding that plaintiff could perform a specific job existing in significant numbers in the national economy. AR at 22-39. After reviewing additional evidence, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. AR at 1-4.

II. JURISDICTION

Jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision exists pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the Commissioner's denial of social security benefits when the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 (9th Cir. 2005). "Substantial evidence" is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and 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); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving any other ambiguities that might exist. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). While the Court is required to examine the record as a whole, it may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, it is the Commissioner's conclusion that must be upheld. Id.

The Court may direct an award of benefits where "the record has been fully developed and further administrative proceedings would serve no useful purpose." McCartey v. Massanari, 298 F.3d 1072, 1076 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1292 (9th Cir. 1996)). The Court may find that this occurs when:

(1) the ALJ has failed to provide legally sufficient reasons for rejecting the claimant's evidence; (2) there are no outstanding issues that must be resolved before a determination of disability can be made; and (3) it is clear from the record that the ALJ would be required to find the claimant disabled if he considered the claimant's evidence.

Id. at 1076-77; see also Harman v. Apfel, 211 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2000) (noting that erroneously rejected evidence may be ...


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