United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
Alice Theiler, United States Magistrate Judge.
Teri Reed proceeds through counsel in her appeal of a final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied
Plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(DIB) and found her eligible for Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) as of January 1, 2014, but not disabled before, 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 REVERSED
and REMANDED for further administrative proceedings.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1958. She has a college degree and
master's degree, and worked as a business consultant
until November 2007. (AR 450, 767.)
applied for SSI and DIB in August 2011. (AR 382-90.) Her date
last insured (DLI) is December 31, 2011. (AR 445.) Those
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration
and Plaintiff timely requested a hearing. (AR 252-60,
August 13, 2013, ALJ M.J. Adams held a hearing, taking
testimony from Plaintiff, Plaintiff's partner, and a
vocational expert (VE). (AR 33-78.) On August 29, 2013, the
ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (AR
217-26.) Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council
granted Plaintiff's request for review on June 27, 2014,
and remanded the case back to the ALJ for further
proceedings. (AR 234-39.)
Adams held additional hearings on December 10, 2014, and May
12, 2015, taking testimony from Plaintiff, Plaintiff's
treating neurologist, a medical expert, and a VE. (AR
71-147.) On June 15, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying
Plaintiff's DIB application, and granting her SSI
application as of January 1, 2014. (AR 16-29.) The Appeals
Council denied review on October 27, 2016, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
(AR 1-6.) Plaintiff now seeks judicial review.
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 engaged in
substantial gainful activity (“SGA”) through
November 15, 2007, and thus found her not disabled at step
one through that date. (AR 18.) At step two, it must be
determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe
impairment. The ALJ found that since November 16, 2007,
Plaintiff's seizure disorder, status post laser ablation;
obesity; a cognitive disorder; and affective disorders were
severe. (AR 18-19.) Step three asks whether a claimant's
impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found
that Plaintiff met a listing beginning on January 1, 2014,
but not from November 16, 2007, to December 31, 2013. (AR
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 that from November 16, 2007, until she became
disabled on January 1, 2014, Plaintiff was capable of
performing medium work, with additional limitations. She
could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She could not
drive, operate hazardous machinery, or work at unprotected
heights. She could perform simple, routine tasks, and follow
short, simple instructions. She could do work that needed
little or no judgment and she could perform simple duties
that could be learned on the job in less than 30 days. She
could respond appropriately to supervision and coworkers. She
could deal with occasional changes in the work environment.
She had no difficulty dealing with the general public. (AR
20-21.) With that assessment, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not
able to perform her past relevant work. (AR 27.)
claimant demonstrates an inability to perform 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 VE's assistance, the ALJ found
that before Plaintiff became disabled on January 1, 2014, she
was capable of performing other representative occupations,
including kitchen helper, bagger, and dining room attendant.
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, one of which supports the ALJ's decision,
the Court must uphold that decision. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002).
argues the ALJ erred in (1) assessing several medical
opinions; (2) discounting her credibility; and (3)
discounting lay statements. The Commissioner argues that the
ALJ's decision ...