United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
LYLE G. SMITHINGELL, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge.
Lyle Smithingell proceeds through counsel in his appeal of a
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied
plaintiff's applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits (DIB) and 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, this matter is REMANDED
for further administrative proceedings.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1962. He has a high school degree and a
carpenter's certificate, and previously worked as a
carpenter. (AR 25, 39.)
filed DIB and SSI applications in June 2013, alleging
disability beginning September 20, 1996. (AR 206, 208.)
Plaintiff remained insured for DIB through December 31, 2008
and was required to establish disability on or prior to that
“date last insured” (DLI). See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.131, 404.321. His applications were denied
initially and on reconsideration.
February 5, 2015, ALJ Cynthia Rosa held a hearing, taking
testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR
33-65.) At hearing, plaintiff amended his alleged onset date
to December 31, 2007. (AR 37.) On May 20, 2015, the ALJ
issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. (AR 14-27.)
timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review on September 27, 2016 (AR 1-5), making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to
Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
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 engaged
in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers
from a severe impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's
status post three surgeries for right scapholunate ligament
tear severe. She found other impairments, including major
depressive disorder and anxiety disorder (not otherwise
specified (NOS)), nonsevere. Step three asks whether a
claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment.
The ALJ found the impairments did not meet or equal the
criteria of a listing.
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 has
demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The
ALJ found plaintiff able to perform light work and able to
lift/carry five pounds occasionally and frequently with right
upper extremity, but with no exertional limitations in
lifting/carrying with left upper extremity; able to perform
work that does not require crawling or climbing ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; can do occasional handling and fingering
with right upper extremity; claimant is right hand dominant
and able to perform work that does not require using hand
controls with right upper extremity; and able to perform work
that allows him to avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations
and hazards. With that assessment, the ALJ found plaintiff
unable to perform his past relevant work.
claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant
work, or has no past relevant work, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to demonstrate at step five 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 the VE, the ALJ found plaintiff capable of
performing other jobs, such as work as a cashier II,
furniture rental consultant, and information clerk.
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). Accord Marsh v. Colvin, 792 F.3d 1170,
1172 (9th Cir. 2015) (“We will set aside a denial of
benefits only if the denial is unsupported by substantial
evidence in the administrative record or is based on legal
error.”) 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 ...