United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
KAREN L. STROMBOM, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff has brought this matter for judicial review of defendant's denial of his applications for disability insurance and supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73 and Local Rule MJR 13, the parties have consented to have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. After reviewing the parties' briefs and the remaining record, the Court hereby finds that for the reasons set forth below, defendant's decision to deny benefits should be reversed and this matter should be remanded for further administrative proceedings.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On July 21, 2008, plaintiff filed an application for SSI benefits and on August 13, 2008, he filed another one for disability insurance benefits, alleging in both applications he became disabled beginning October 16, 2006. See ECF #16, Administrative Record ("AR") 17. Both applications were denied upon initial administrative review on November 19, 2008, and on reconsideration on March 13, 2009. See id. A hearing was held before administrative law judge ("ALJ") Verrell Dethloff, on June 3, 2010, at which plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified. See AR 40-58.
In a decision dated August 16, 2010, ALJ Dethloff determined plaintiff to be not disabled. See AR 17-32. Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision was denied by the Appeals Council on April 11, 2012, making ALJ Dethloff's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner"). See AR 1; 20 C.F.R. § 404.981, § 416.1481. Plaintiff appealed that decision to this Court, which on October 1, 2012, remanded this matter for further administrative proceedings based on the stipulation of the parties. See AR 783-84.
On remand, a second hearing was held before ALJ Joanne Dantonio on July 22, 2013, at which plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified, as did a vocational expert. See AR 705-42. In a decision dated September 16, 2013, ALJ Dantonio also determined plaintiff to be not disabled. See AR 678-95. It does not appear from the record that the Appeals Council assumed jurisdiction of the case, making ALJ Dantonio's decision the Commissioner's final decision. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.984, § 416.1484.
On December 30, 2013, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision. See ECF #3. The administrative record was filed with the Court on March 24, 2014. See ECF #16. The parties have completed their briefing, and thus this matter is now ripe for the Court's review. Plaintiff argues the decision to deny benefits should be reversed and remanded for an award of benefits, or in the alternative for further administrative proceedings, because the ALJ erred:
(1) in evaluating the medical opinion evidence in the record;
(2) in not considering whether any of plaintiff's impairments met or medically equaled the criteria of those contained in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1;
(3) in discounting plaintiff's credibility;
(4) in assessing plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC");
(5) in failing to consider plaintiff's pain; and
(6) in finding plaintiff to be capable of performing other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court agrees the ALJ erred in assessing plaintiff's RFC and in finding him to be capable of performing other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, and thus in determining him to be not disabled. Also for the reasons set forth below, however, the Court finds that while defendant's decision to deny benefits should ...