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O'Leary v. Colvin

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

April 9, 2015

DORIS O'LEARY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER ON SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY

RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Doris O'Leary, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for Social Security Disability (SSD) insurance benefits. The parties agree that this Court should remand the ALJ's decision. The issue is whether the case should be remanded for further proceedings or for a finding of disability and payment of benefits.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed an application for SSD benefits, alleging disability beginning September 24, 2010. Tr. 22. Plaintiffs claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. Id. On November 27, 2012, Administrative Law Judge ("ALF) Tom L. Morris held a hearing with Plaintiff. Tr. 22 and 43-93. Plaintiff was represented by counsel, Travis Hanson. Tr. 43. Vocational Expert ("VE") Paul Prachyl was also present and testified. Id. On March 18, 2013, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 37. Plaintiff requested administrative review of the ALJ's decision, and on May 14, 2014, the Appeals Council declined review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review. Tr. 1-5. Plaintiff timely filed this judicial action.

III. JURISDICTION

Jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision exists pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court has the discretion to reverse the Commissioner's decision with or without a remand for further administrative proceedings. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Harman v. Apfel, 211 F.3d 1172, 1177-78 (9th Cir. 2000). "[R]emand for further proceedings is unnecessary if the record is fully developed and it is clear from the record that the ALJ would be required to award benefits." Holohan v. Massanari, 246 F.3d 1195, 1210 (9th Cir. 2001).

The Ninth Circuit articulated a test for determining when to remand for an immediate finding of disability and award of benefits in Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273 (9th Cir. 1996) ("Smolen Test"). Accordingly, this Court may credit evidence and remand for an award of benefits where:

1) The ALJ has failed to provide legally sufficient reasons for rejecting [medical opinions or a claimant's testimony];
2) There are no outstanding issues to be resolved before a determination of disability can be made; and
3) It is clear from the record that the ALJ would be required to find the claimant disabled were such evidence credited. See id. at 1292; See also Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 (9th Cir. 2005). If, however, unresolved issues remain such that the record does not clearly require a finding of disability, the Court should remand for further proceedings to remedy defects ...

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