United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge
Ronald Crawford proceeds through counsel in his 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) 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
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1949. He has a high school diploma and some
college education, and has worked as a sales associate and
contract manager at Home Depot, and as a construction
laborer. (AR 54, 193, 298.)
protectively applied for DIB in December 2013. (AR 159-65.)
His date last insured (DLI) is December 31, 2014.
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, and Plaintiff timely requested a hearing.
(AR 102-04, 106-07, 112.)
September 9, 2015, ALJ David Johnson held a hearing, taking
testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert. (AR 47-79.)
On November 12, 2015 the ALJ issued a decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled before his DLI. (AR 30-42.) Plaintiff
timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review on March 31, 2017 (AR 1-9), making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to
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 had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity between his amended alleged
onset date and his DLI. (AR 32.) At step two, it must be
determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe
impairment. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's degenerative
disc disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity were severe
through the DLI. (AR 32.) Step three asks whether a
claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment.
The ALJ found that through the DLI, Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or equal the criteria of a listed
impairment. (AR 33.)
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 through the DLI, Plaintiff was capable of
performing light work, with additional limitations: he can
occasionally climb, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. He
cannot have concentrated exposure to wetness, pulmonary
irritants, or hazards (such as open machinery or unprotected
heights). (AR 33.) With that assessment, the ALJ found that
through the DLI, Plaintiff was able to perform past relevant
work as a sales representative (building equipment). (AR
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. Because the ALJ found Plaintiff capable of
performing past relevant work, the ALJ did not proceed to
step five. (AR 41-42.)
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 medical opinion
evidence, (2) discounting Plaintiff's subjective
testimony, and (3) discounting lay evidence. Plaintiff also
argues that the ALJ's decision should be reversed in
light of evidence submitted for the first time to the Appeals
Council. The Commissioner ...