United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
JEFFREY T. JACKY, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
MARY ALICE THEILER, Chief Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Jeffrey Jacky proceeds through counsel in his 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 of record, the Court recommends that this matter be REVERSED and REMANDED for further proceedings.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1965. He graduated from high school and attended community college, but did not obtain a degree. (AR 43-44.)
Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI on March 10, 2011, alleging disability beginning April 20, 2010. (AR 18, 192-205.) His applications were denied at the initial level and on reconsideration. (AR 135-38, 141-44.)
On September 12, 2012, ALJ Ilene Sloan held a hearing, taking testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert. (AR 38-78.) On October 18, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. (AR 15-37.)
Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on April 18, 2014 (AR 1-6), 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 April 20, 2010, the alleged onset date. (AR 20.) At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's degenerative disc disease, lumbar radiculopathy, mood disorder, and alcohol dependence to be severe impairments. (AR 20-23.) 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. (AR 23-25.)
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 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), except he can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs. Plaintiff should never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds and can frequently balance. He can frequently reach overhead with the right upper extremity and should avoid concentrated exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and moving machinery. Plaintiff should avoid concentrated exposure to vibration. He can understand, remember and carry out simple, repetitive tasks consistent with unskilled work with an SVP of 1 or 2, and he can frequently handle and finger bilaterally. (AR 25-31.) With that assessment, the ALJ found plaintiff unable to perform his past relevant work as a satellite communications antenna installer and warehouse worker. (AR 31.)
If a claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant work or has no 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 electrical accessories assembler, inspector and hand packager, and housekeeping cleaner. (AR 32-33.)
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, ...