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Phillips v. Berryhill

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

May 11, 2017

ROBERT S. PHILLIPS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1]Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING CASE FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR United States District Judge.

         Robert S. Phillips seeks review of the denial of his Title II application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB). Mr. Phillips contends the ALJ erred in evaluating the credibility of his own symptom testimony as well as the medical opinion evidence. Dkt. 13 at 2. Mr. Phillips contends these errors resulted in a residual functional capacity (RFC) determination that failed to account for all of his limitations. Id. Mr. Phillips further argues that the vocational expert's (VE's) testimony is inconsistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and, therefore, substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's finding, at step five, that he can perform other jobs in the national economy. Id. at 2, 14. Mr. Phillips contends this matter should be remanded for an award of benefits or, alternatively, for further administrative proceedings. Id. at 16. As discussed below, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the matter for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         BACKGROUND

         In April 2013, Mr. Phillips applied for benefits, alleging disability as of March 12, 2012.[2]Tr. 22. Mr. Phillips' applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 22, 70-88. After the ALJ conducted a hearing on November 18, 2014, he issued a decision finding Mr. Phillips not disabled. Tr. 22-31.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [3] the ALJ found:

Step one: Mr. Phillips has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 12, 2012, the alleged onset date.
Step two: Mr. Phillips has the following severe impairments: cervical degenerative disc disease with spondylosis and radiculitis, status-post discectomy with fusion and instrumentation, with mild face degeneration; coronary artery disease with angina; tensynovitis right hand.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[4]
Residual Functional Capacity: Mr. Phillips can perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(a) except he could stand or walk for two hours in an eight-hour workday; he could sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday; he could never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; he could occasionally balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, crawl, or climb ramps or stairs; he could frequently complete rotation, flexion or extension of the neck; he could occasionally perform overhead reaching bilaterally; he could frequently handle and finger bilaterally; he should avoid concentrated exposure to vibration and hazards, including using of moving machinery and unprotected heights.
Step four: Mr. Phillips cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Mr. Phillips can perform, he is not disabled.

Tr. 22-31. The Appeals Council denied Mr. Phillips' request for review making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1-6.[5]

         DISCUSSION

         A. Mr. Phillips' Symptom Testimony

         Mr. Phillips contends the ALJ erred in evaluating the credibility of his symptom testimony. Dkt. ...


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