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Tolley v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

October 19, 2017

CHRISTOPHER CLELIN TOLLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. BASIC DATA

         Type of Benefits Sought:

         (X) Disability Insurance

         (X) Supplemental Security Income Plaintiff's:

         Sex: Male Age: 26 at alleged onset date Principal Disabilities Alleged by Plaintiff: Nerve damage, arthritis, depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and chronic pain Disability Allegedly Began: August 1, 2010 Principal Previous Work Experience: Cashier, stock worker, prep cook, truck driver, and dishwasher Education Level Achieved by Plaintiff: 11th grade

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY-ADMINISTRATIVE

         Before ALJ Tom L. Morris:

         Date of Hearing: December 31, 2015; hearing transcript AR 939-86

         Date of Decision: December 12, 2016

         Appears in Record at: AR 911-38

         Summary of Decision:

The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 1, 2010, the alleged onset date. The claimant has the following severe impairments: fractures of the lower limb; disorders of the muscle, ligament, and fascia; obesity; anxiety disorders; affective disorders; and substance addiction disorders. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
The claimant has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except the claimant can occasionally push and pull with the bilateral upper extremities; he can occasionally push and pull with the left lower extremity (including the operation of foot controls); he can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, kneel, crouch, and crawl; he can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; he cannot reach above the shoulder when using the left upper extremity; he is limited to unskilled work tasks involving simple repetitive tasks with customary breaks and lunch; he can have superficial contact for work tasks with coworkers and the general public; he is not able to perform at a production rate pace (e.g., assembly line work where pace is set by the machine) but can perform goal-oriented work (e.g., office cleaner); and he may be off task ten percent of an eight-hour workday.
The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform. Therefore, the claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from August 1, 2010, through the date of the decision.

         Appeals Council: Did not assume jurisdiction

         III. PROCEDURAL HISTORY-THIS COURT

         Jurisdiction based upon: 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)

         Brief on Merits Submitted by (X) Plaintiff (X) Commissioner

         IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court may set aside the Commissioner's denial of Social Security benefits when the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005). “Substantial evidence” is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and 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); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving any other ambiguities that might exist. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). While the Court is required to examine the record as a whole, it may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. See Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). “Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's conclusion must be upheld.” Id.

         V. EVALUATING DISABILITY

         The claimant, Christopher Clelin Tolley (“Tolley”), bears the burden of proving that he is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act (“Act”). Meanel v. Apfel, 172 F.3d 1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999). The Act defines disability as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity” due to a physical or mental impairment which has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). A claimant is disabled under the Act only if his impairments are of such severity that he is unable to do his previous work, and cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other substantial gainful activity existing in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A); see also Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99 (9th Cir. 1999).

         The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. The claimant bears the burden of proof during steps one through four. Valentine v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., 574 F.3d ...


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