United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING FOR AN IMMEDIATE AWARD
L. ROBART, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Matthew Howe seeks review of the denial of his application
for disability insurance benefits. Mr, Howe contends that the
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in
evaluating the medical evidence in the record, the Department
of Veterans Affairs ("VA") disability
determination, Mr. Howe's severe impairments, and Mr.
Howe's testimony, resulting in a residual functional
capacity ("RFC") and step-five finding that were
unsupported by substantial evidence. (Op. Br. (Dkt. # 10) at
1.) Having considered the submissions of the parties, the
relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law, the
court REVERSES Defendant Commissioner Nancy A.
Berryhill's ("the Commissioner") final decision
and REMANDS the matter for an immediate award of benefits.
22,2015, Mr. Howe protectively filed an application for
disability insurance benefits. (Administrative Record
("AR") (Dkt. # 6) at 20.) Mr. Howe's
application was denied initially and on reconsideration,
(Id.) After the ALJ conducted a hearing on May 9,
2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Mr. Howe not
disabled. (Id. at 20-38.)
decision, the ALJ utilized the five-step disability
evaluation process, and the court summarizes the ALJ's
findings as follows:
Step one: Mr. Howe has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since April 6, 2015, the alleged
Step two: Mr. Howe has the following severe
impairments: post-traumatic stress disorder
("PTSD"), traumatic brain injury with mild
cognitive disorder, degenerative disc disease, and knee
Step three: Mr. Howe does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals
the requirements of a listed impairment.
RFC: Mr. Howe has the RFC to perform light
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) except as
follows. He can perform occasional balancing, stooping,
kneeling, crouching, crawling, and climbing ramps and stairs,
but no climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He must avoid
concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poor
ventilation. He must avoid even moderate exposure to hazards
such as dangerous moving machinery and unprotected heights.
He can perform simple tasks at a reasoning level one to
three. He can have superficial public contact, in that he can
work around the public and interact briefly in activities
that do not involve customer service, sales, or the potential
for confrontations with the general public. He can adjust to
occasional changes in a work setting.
Step four: Mr. Howe is unable to perform any
past relevant work.
Step five: Because jobs exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Mr. Howe can perform, he
has not been disabled from October 1, 2012, through the date
of the decision.
(See id.) The Appeals Council denied Mr. Howe's
request for review, making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final decision. (See Id. at 1-6.)