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Woody v. Colvin

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

November 18, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


MARY ALICE THEILER, Chief Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Adrienne M. Woody proceeds through counsel in her appeal of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and 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, the Court recommends that this matter be REMANDED for an award of benefits.


Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1968.[1] She has a high school education and some community college. She has past relevant work as a home attendant, general clerk, labor-stores, case aid, and telephone operator. (AR 31.)

Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI benefits on July 2, 2010, alleging disability beginning January 3, 2010. She is insured for DIB through September 30, 2010. (AR 22.) Plaintiff's applications were denied at the initial level and on reconsideration. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing.

On November 29, 2012, ALJ Rebekah Ross held a hearing, taking testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert. (AR 376-424.) On December 26, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled from January 3, 2010 through the present. (AR 20-32.)

Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on April 11, 2014 (AR 4-7), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to this Court.


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


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 osteoarthritis, osteonecrosis, diabetes mellitus, major depressive disorder, bi-polar disorder, social anxiety disorder, and cognitive disorder not otherwise specified severe. Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found that 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. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) subject to limitations. She can occasionally climb, balance, and stoop, but never kneel, crouch, and crawl. She can never climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds and must avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations and hazards such as machinery and heights. She is limited to unskilled work with simple repetitive tasks and can tolerate only rare changes in the work setting. She can have no interaction with the public and only occasional, superficial interaction with coworkers. She is limited to tasks involving dealing with things rather than people. With that assessment, the ALJ found plaintiff unable to perform her 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, inspector/hand packager, and garment holder.

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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