United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
DAVID N. ARMANI, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
MARY ALICE THEILER, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff David N. Armani 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 proceedings.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1979. He graduated from college in Lebanon and was trained there as a paramedic, moved to the United States in 2010, and has worked in the United States as a machine operator and a mover. (AR 44-45, 47, 60-61.)
Plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSI on February 3, 2012, alleging disability beginning February 1, 2012. (AR 86, 182-88.) His application was denied at the initial level and on reconsideration, and he timely requested a hearing. (AR 111-14, 118-26.)
On December 31, 2012, ALJ Ilene Sloan held a hearing, taking testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert. (AR 39-85.) On February 13, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (AR 19-33.)
Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review after reviewing additional evidence on June 16, 2014 (AR 1-7), 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 worked after the application date. (AR 21.) At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found severe Plaintiff's cervical spine disc herniation at C5-6 and cervicalgia. (AR 21-23.) 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.)
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 additional limitations: he can frequently climb ramps and stairs, and occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. He can frequently crouch and occasionally crawl. He can frequently handle and finger bilaterally. He can perform occasional overhead reaching with his left arm. He must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, vibration, and hazards. (AR 23-30.) With that assessment, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform his past relevant work. (AR 30-31.)
At step five of the sequential evaluation, 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 vocational expert, the ALJ found Plaintiff capable of performing other jobs, such as telephone solicitor, hand packager, and cashier. (AR 31-32.) The ALJ thus found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (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, ...