United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MARVIN C. GALLOW, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
MARY ALICE THEILER,
Plaintiff Marvin C. Gallow 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 that this matter be REVERSED and REMANDED for further administrative proceedings.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1965. He completed tenth grade and later received his GED. (AR 204, 334.) Plaintiff previously worked as a cook. (AR 204.)
Plaintiff protectively filed for SSI on October 28, 2011, alleging disability beginning January 1, 2009. (AR 11, 177-85.) His application was denied at the initial level and on reconsideration, and he timely requested a hearing. (AR 109-12, 121-30.)
On November 1, 2012, ALJ Mary Gallagher Dilley held a hearing, taking testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR 30-71.) On February 21, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (AR 11-24.)
Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on August 6, 2014 (AR 1-6), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed the Commissioner's final decision 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 worked since the alleged onset date. (AR 13.) At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found severe Plaintiff's lumbar degenerative disc disease, anxiety disorder, affective disorder, and personality disorder. (AR 13-14.) 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 14-15.)
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. §§ 416.967(b) with the following exceptions: he can lift and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently. He can stand and/or walk for six hours in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks and sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks. He can frequently climb ramps and stairs, and occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. He can frequently stoop, kneel, and crawl, and occasionally crouch. He should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, wetness, vibration, and hazards. He can perform simple, routine tasks involving no contact with the public and occasional, superficial contact with co-workers (but no teamwork). (AR 15-16.) With that assessment, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform his past relevant work.
The ALJ proceeded to step five of the sequential evaluation, where the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate 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 VE, the ALJ found Plaintiff capable of performing other jobs, such as assembler and agricultural sorter. (AR 23.) The ALJ accordingly found that Plaintiff had not been disabled since the application date. (AR 23-24.)
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, ...