United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
T. RODGERS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
THE COURT are cross-motions for summary judgment.
ECF No. 14, 15. Attorney Randi L. Johnson represents Damen
Lee Tokarz (Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States
Attorney Leisa A. Wolf represents the Commissioner of Social
Security (Defendant). The parties have consented to proceed
before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 4. After reviewing the
administrative record and the briefs filed by the parties,
the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment; DENIES Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment; and REMANDS the
matter to the Commissioner for additional proceedings
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
on February 8, 2015, alleging disability since August 13,
2011, Tr. 190, due to degenerative disc disease, arthritis in
the back, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), knee pain,
shoulder pain, neck pain, and numbness/burning/tingling
sensations in his limbs, Tr. 262. The application was denied
initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 139-141, 145-147.
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) R.J. Payne held a hearing on
January 21, 2016 and heard testimony from Plaintiff, medical
experts, Lynne Jahnke, M.D. and Margaret Moore, Ph.D., and
vocational expert K. Diane Kramer. Tr. 35-89. The ALJ issued
an unfavorable decision on February 1, 2016. Tr. 17-28. The
Appeals Council denied review on May 5, 2016. Tr. 1-4. The
ALJ's February 1, 2016 decision became the final decision
of the Commissioner, which is appealable to the district
court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff filed
this action for judicial review on June 29, 2016. ECF No. 1,
facts of the case are set forth in the administrative hearing
transcript, the ALJ's decision, and the briefs of the
parties. They are only briefly summarized here.
was 30 years old at the alleged onset date. Tr. 190.
Plaintiff completed the twelfth grade and was in the military
from February 2002 to November 2010. Tr. 263. He attempted to
work as a meter reader from July to August of 2011.
Id. He reported that he stopped working August 13,
2011 due to his conditions. Tr. 262.
is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995). The Court reviews the ALJ's determinations of law
de novo, deferring to a reasonable interpretation of the
statutes. McNatt v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1084, 1087 (9th
Cir. 2000). The decision of the ALJ may be reversed only if
it is not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based
on legal error. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094,
1097 (9th Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is defined as
being more than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. Id. at 1098. Put another way,
substantial evidence 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). If the evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, the court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ. Tackett, 180 F.3d at
1097. If substantial evidence supports the administrative
findings, or if conflicting evidence supports a finding of
either disability or non-disability, the ALJ's
determination is conclusive. Sprague v. Bowen, 812
F.2d 1226, 1229-1230 (9th Cir. 1987). Nevertheless, a
decision supported by substantial evidence will be set aside
if the proper legal standards were not applied in weighing
the evidence and making the decision. Brawner v.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, 839 F.2d 432,
433 (9th Cir. 1988).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a); see Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-142 (1987). In steps one
through four, the burden of proof rests upon the claimant to
establish a prima facie case of entitlement to disability
benefits. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098-1099. This
burden is met once the claimant establishes that physical or
mental impairments prevent him from engaging in his previous
occupations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). If the claimant
cannot do his past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to step
five, and the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that
(1) the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, and
(2) specific jobs exist in the national economy which the
claimant can perform. Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193-1194 (9th Cir. 2004). If the
claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work in the
national economy, a finding of “disabled” is
made. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).
February 1, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff
was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since August 13, 2011, the alleged onset
date. Tr. 19.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: obesity; mild degenerative disk disease of the
lumbar spine; depressive disorder; PTSD; personality
disorder; and substance dependence. Tr. 19.
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the