United States District Court, W.D. Washington
JOHNNIE R. WILSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant
For Johnnie R. Wilson, Plaintiff: Eitan Kassel Yanich, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF EITAN KASSEL PLLC, OLYMPIA, WA.
For Carolyn W Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Benjamin J. Groebner, LEAD ATTORNEY, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, SEATTLE, WA; Kerry Jane Keefe, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE (SEA), SEATTLE, WA.
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
Karen L. Strombom, United States Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff has brought this matter for judicial review of defendant's denial of his application for disability insurance 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 December 22, 2005, plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits, alleging disability as of June 30, 1999. See ECF #9, Administrative Record (" AR") 460. That application was denied upon initial administrative review on February 23, 2006, and on reconsideration on May 9, 2006. See id. A hearing was held before an administrative law judge (" ALJ") on April 3, 2008, at which plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified. See AR 537-54.
In a decision dated June 13, 2008, the ALJ found plaintiff to be capable of returning to his past relevant work, and therefore determined him to be not disabled. See AR 460-71. On January 9, 2009, plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision was granted by the Appeals Council, because it appeared the physical restrictions of plaintiff's past relevant work exceeded those found in the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment, and therefore " [e]vidence from a vocational expert [wa]s needed." AR 474-75. The Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision, and directed the ALJ to do the following:
The Administrative Law Judge will obtain evidence from a vocational expert to determine whether or not the claimant can perform his past relevant work, and if not, whether jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform within his residual functional capacity.
In compliance with the above, the Administrative Law Judge will offer the claimant an opportunity for a hearing, address the evidence which was submitted with the request for review, take further action needed to complete the administrative record and issue a new decision.
On remand, a second hearing was held before the same ALJ on July 2, 2009, at which plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified, as did a vocational expert. See AR 555-77. In a decision dated January 8, 2010, that ALJ again found plaintiff to be not disabled, both because he was capable of performing his past relevant work and because he could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy. See AR 16-21. In so deciding, the ALJ further stated in relevant part:
In its remand order, the Appeals Council directed the undersigned to obtain evidence from a vocational expert to determine whether or not the claimant can perform his past relevant work, and if not, whether jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform within his residual functional capacity.
As the Appeals Council did not disturb other issues of my decision, and the prior hearing was subsequent to his date last insured, I limited the issues at the hearing to the vocational evidence. The medical issues, including opinion evidence and subjective testimony were dealt with in the prior hearing decision, and are adopted herewith as if set out fully. I declined to allow [plaintiff's ...