United States District Court, W.D. Washington
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER
S. LASNIK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Byron Craig Henderson appeals the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”), which denied his applications
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-33 and 1381-83f, after a hearing before an administrative
law judge (“ALJ”). For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision is hereby REVERSED and
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
is a 49-year-old man with a high-school education.
Administrative Record (“AR”) at 194, 199. His
past work experience was as a delivery person and warehouse
worker. AR at 199. Plaintiff was last gainfully employed in
September of 2007. AR at 198.
protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI on June 14,
2010. AR at 548. Plaintiff asserted that he was disabled due
to attention deficit disorder, depression, bipolar disorder,
anxiety, and psychosis. AR at 198.
Commissioner denied plaintiffs claims initially and on
reconsideration. AR at 548. After a hearing at which
plaintiff amended his alleged onset date to March 2, 2009,
ALJ Verrell Dethloff issued a decision finding plaintiff not
to be disabled. AR at 19-37. After the Appeals Council
declined review, plaintiff appealed that decision to this
Court, which remanded the matter for further administrative
proceedings. AR at 686-702.
plaintiff filed subsequent applications for DIB and SSI on
December 16, 2013. See AR at 549. Plaintiff received
a favorable determination finding him to be disabled as of
April 7, 2012. See id. The Appeals Council affirmed
that determination. AR at 708-12.
hearing regarding the original applications took place on
December 3, 2015. AR at 615-44. On January 16, 2016, ALJ
Virginia M. Robinson issued a decision finding that between
March 2, 2009, and April 7, 2012, plaintiff was not disabled
based on her finding that plaintiff could perform past work
or could alternatively perform specific jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy. AR at 548-61. It
does not appear from the record that the Appeals Council
assumed jurisdiction of the case. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.984, 416.1484. On May 24, 2016, plaintiff
timely filed the present action challenging the
Commissioner's decision. Dkt. No. 3.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits when
the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 (9th Cir.
2005). “Substantial evidence” is more than a
scintilla, less than a preponderance, and is such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d
747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The ALJ is responsible for
determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical
testimony, and resolving any other ambiguities that might
exist. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th
Cir. 1995). While the Court is required to examine the record
as a whole, it may neither reweigh the evidence nor
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir.
2002). When the evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, it is the Commissioner's
conclusion that must be upheld. Id
claimant, Mr. Henderson bears the burden of proving that he
is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
(the “Act”). Meanel v. Apfel, 172 F.3d
1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999). The Act defines disability as the
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity” due to a physical or mental impairment which
has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period
of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). A claimant is disabled under
the Act only if his impairments are of such severity that he
is unable to do his previous work, and cannot, considering
his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other
substantial gainful activity existing in the national
economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); see also Tackett
v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is
disabled within the meaning of the Act. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The claimant bears the
burden of proof during steps one through four. At step five,
the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Id. If a
claimant is found to be disabled at any step in the sequence,
the inquiry ends without the need to consider subsequent
steps. Step one asks whether the claimant is presently
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If he is,
disability benefits are denied. If he is not, the
Commissioner proceeds to step two. At step two, the claimant
must establish that he has one or more medically severe
impairments, or combination of impairments, that limit his
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. If
the claimant does not have such impairments, he is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If
the claimant does have a severe impairment, the Commissioner
moves to step three to determine whether the impairment meets
or equals any of the listed impairments described in the
regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
A claimant whose impairment meets or equals one of the
listings for the required 12-month duration requirement is
the claimant's impairment neither meets nor equals one of
the impairments listed in the regulations, the Commissioner
must proceed to step four and evaluate the claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”). 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). Here, the Commissioner
evaluates the physical and mental demands of the
claimant's past relevant work to determine whether he can
still perform that work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f),
416.920(f). If the claimant is able to perform his past
relevant work, he is not disabled; if the opposite is true,
then the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to
show that the claimant can perform other work that exists in
significant numbers in the national economy, taking into
consideration the claimant's RFC, age, education, and