United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge.
Michael John Leskela, Jr., 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 Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) 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, 1972. He has a high school diploma, and has
worked as a painter, Salvation Army bell ringer, temporary
laborer, and retail and grocery stocker. (AR 41, 343.)
applied for SSI in August 2013. (AR 297-305.) That
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration,
and Plaintiff timely requested a hearing. (AR 142, 155,
1, 2015, ALJ M.J. Adams held a hearing, taking testimony from
Plaintiff and a vocational expert. (AR 37-65.) On July 30,
2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled. (AR 8-18.) Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on January
25, 2017 (AR 806-11), making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff appealed this final
decision of the Commissioner to this Court.
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 since the application date.
(AR 11.) At step two, it must be determined whether a
claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found
severe Plaintiff's depression, anxiety, and history of
alcohol abuse. (Id.) Step three asks whether a
claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment.
The ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet
or equal the criteria of a listed impairment. (AR 11-12.)
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 Plaintiff capable of performing a full range of
work at all exertional levels, with the following
limitations: he can perform simple, routine tasks and follow
short, simple instructions. He can do work that requires
little or no judgment and perform simple duties that can be
learned on the job in less than 30 days. He can respond
appropriately to supervision, but cannot work in close
coordination with co-workers where teamwork is required. He
can tolerate occasional changes in the work environment and
work that requires no interaction with the public. (AR 12.)
With that assessment, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to
perform past relevant work. (AR 16.)
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. The ALJ found Plaintiff capable of
transitioning to representative occupations, such as mail
clerk, hand packager, and landscape laborer. (AR 16-17.)
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) discounting an opinion written by
examining psychologist Melanie Mitchell, Psy.D; and (2)
discounting his subjective testimony. The Commissioner argues that
the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence
and should be affirmed, but that if it is remanded, ...