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George v. Colvin

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

April 15, 2014

MARLIN L. GEORGE, JR, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL

MARY ALICE THEILER, Chief Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Marlin L. George, Jr. proceeds through counsel in his appeal of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) after a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Having considered the ALJ's decision, the administrative record (AR), and all memoranda of record, the Court recommends this matter be REMANDED for further proceedings.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1981.[1] He has a GED (AR 120), and past work as a fishing vessel deckhand and construction worker II. (AR 34.)

Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on August 9, 2010, alleging disability beginning August 12, 2010. Plaintiff's application was denied at the initial level and on reconsideration, and he timely requested a hearing.

On April 24, 2012, ALJ Glen G. Meyers held a hearing, taking testimony from plaintiff, his wife, and a vocational expert. (AR 41-90.) On May 10, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. (AR 23-36.)

Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on May 21, 2013 (AR 1-5), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to this Court.

JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

DISCUSSION

The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2000). At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is gainfully employed. The ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's left femur fracture status post intramedullar rodding, adjustment disorder with anxious mood, and polysubstance abuse and alcohol abuse in remission severe. Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the criteria of a listed impairment.

If a claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listing, the Commissioner must assess residual functional capacity (RFC) and determine at step four whether the claimant has demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The ALJ found plaintiff able to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b), except that he cannot stoop, crawl, balance, crouch, or kneel. Plaintiff can perform simple repetitive tasks, cannot have contact with the public, can have frequent contact with supervisors and co-workers, and would have less than one unscheduled absence per month. With that assessment, the ALJ found plaintiff unable to perform his past relevant work.

If a claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate at step five that the claimant retains the capacity to make an adjustment to work that exists in significant levels in the national economy. With the assistance of a vocational expert, the ALJ found plaintiff capable of performing other jobs, such as small products assembler II and poultry dresser.

This Court's review of the ALJ's decision is limited to whether the decision is in accordance with the law and the findings supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th Cir. 1993). Substantial evidence means more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). If there is more than one rational interpretation, ...


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