United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING
A. TSUCHIDA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Stephen Perkins seeks review of the denial of his application
for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance
Benefits. Mr. Perkins initially argued the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) erred by failing to properly
address: (1) medical opinions of his chiropractor and
physical therapist; (2) medical evidence from his treating
surgeons; and (2) his credibility. Dkt. 12. The Commissioner
agrees the ALJ committed harmful error when he failed to
properly address the opinions of the chiropractor and
physical therapist and seeks remand for further
administrative proceedings as to that issue only. Dkt. 15. In
response, Mr. Perkins argues that two issues remain: (1)
whether the ALJ erred in discounting his credibility, and (2)
whether an award of benefits is proper. Dkt. 16 at 1;
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).
Perkins filed an application for Title II disability benefits
on April 15, 2013. Tr. 131-132. The alleged onset date of
disability was January 23, 2005. Tr. 131. The date last
insured (“DLI”) on his earnings record was
December 31, 2009. Tr. 136. The application was denied and he
requested a hearing before an ALJ. Tr. 8. After a hearing on
May 18, 2015, an unfavorable decision was entered August 28,
2015. Tr. 16. On January 13, 2017, the Appeals Council denied
Mr. Perkins’s request for review.
the five-step disability evaluation process (20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920), the ALJ found Mr. Perkins
did not engage in substantial gainful activity from January
23, 2005, through December 31, 2009, and that prior to his
DLI, Mr. Perkins had severe impairments, including:
degenerative disc disease, with radiculopathy, status post
decompression surgeries. Tr. 18. Mr. Perkins previously
worked as a timber faller. Tr. 58. He was 42 years old in
December 2009. No medical expert testified during the May
2015 hearing. Tr. 34. On June 14, 2014, the Washington State
Industrial Insurance agency determined Mr. Perkins was
permanently totally disabled. Tr. 671.
found that Mr. Perkins could not perform his past work but
could do other work, based on the following assessment of
residual functional capacity to perform:
Sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except the
claimant could occasionally climb, stoop, and crawl. He could
frequently kneel and crouch. He should have not worked around
wetness or vibration. During an eight hour day he could sit
four hours and stand and walk four hours. He needed a
sit-stand option, where he could sit for 25 minutes at a
time, and then stand or walk for 25 minutes at a time.
Tr. 19. Based on the testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”), the ALJ concluded that jobs existed in
the national economy for a person of Mr. Perkins’ age,
education, work experience and residual functional capacity
such as assembly (D.O.T. 726.685-066) (1,000 regional jobs
and 100,000 national jobs); material handler (D.O.T.
726.687-030) (800 regional jobs and 80,000 national jobs);
cashier (D.O.T. 211.462.010) (1,000 regional jobs and 100,000
national jobs) (although classified by the D.O.T. as
“light,” the VE testified the occupation can be
performed at the sedentary level). Tr. 25.
Agreement of Error – Opinions of Dr. Fleet and
Commissioner concedes the ALJ erred when he failed to
consider an April 2015 opinion from Mr. Perkins’
chiropractor, Clinton W. Van Fleet, D.C. (Tr. 856–59).
Dkt. 15 at 2. The ALJ discounted the opinion because it
postdated the DLI by several years and it conflicted with
medical opinions and objective medical evidence. Tr. 24.
However, because the opinion expressly noted limitations
applying back to 2015 (Tr. 859) and contained a detailed
assessment of Mr. Perkins’s functioning (Tr.
856–59), the ALJ should have addressed the opinion.
Commissioner also concedes the ALJ did not properly address
the opinions of Bob Boney, a physical therapist who evaluated
Mr. Perkins in March 2006 (Tr. 520-27) and in May 2009 (Tr.
602-09). Although the March 2006 evaluation stated Mr.
Perkins could perform medium work (Tr. 526) (described as
less restrictive than the residual functional capacity), the
ALJ failed to address the specific functional limitations
found by Mr. Boney. For example, Mr. Boney determined that
although Mr. Perkins could work an eight-hour day, he can
only sit for a maximum of two hours, stand for a maximum of
three hours, and walk for a maximum of three hours. Tr. 524.
In contrast, the ALJ found Mr. Perkins is capable of sitting
for four hours and standing or walking for four hours. Tr.
19. The ALJ also did not address Mr. Boney’s May 2009
evaluation, which referred to even greater restrictions. Tr.
parties do not disagree that the ALJ committed harmful error,
but disagree on the remedy. The Commissioner argues that the
case should be remanded for further administrative
proceedings and Mr. Perkins argues that the case is
appropriate for immediate payment of benefits. For the
reasons discussed more fully below, the ...