United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING CASE FOR FURTHER
C. COUGHENOUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Acosta-Espinosa seeks review of the denial of his application
for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance
Benefits. The parties agree this matter must be remanded but
disagree as to the scope of the remand. Mr. Acosta-Espinoza
contends the ALJ erred in: (1) failing to consider
degenerative disc disease of the cervical and thoracic spine
and degenerative joint disease of the hips at step two; (2)
failing to consider whether he met Listing 1.04 at step
three; (3) evaluating the medical opinions of Huong Lakin,
D.O. and Nancy Armstrong, ARNP; (4) failing to include visual
limitations in the residual functional capacity (RFC); and
(5) evaluating his own symptom testimony. Dkt. 17 at 1. Mr.
Acosta-Espinoza also notes that his subsequent application
for benefits was granted during the pendency of the instant
appeal with a disability onset date of the day following the
ALJ's decision denying benefits in the instant case. Dkt.
17-1. He contends that, given the ALJ's finding of
disability on the subsequent application, “there is no
serious doubt that [he] is disabled” and the only
question is as to the onset date of his disability. Dkt. 17
at 2, 18. He argues that the evidence the ALJ allegedly erred
in considering should be credited as true and the matter
should be remanded for an award of benefits. Dkt. 17 at 18.
Alternatively, he requests that the case be remanded for
further administrative proceedings.
Commissioner, in response, concedes the ALJ erred at step
three in failing to consider whether Mr. Acosta-Espinoza met
Listing 1.04 at step three and moves to remand the case for
further administrative proceedings. Dkt. 20 at 2. The
Commissioner further contends that the subsequent ALJ
decision granting benefits should also be considered on
remand to determine whether the instant decision denying
benefits and the subsequent decision awarding benefits can be
reconciled. Id. The Commissioner disputes all of Mr.
Acosta-Espinoza's other assignments of error.
Id. at 4-18. As discussed below, the Court
REVERSES the Commissioner's final
decision and REMANDS the matter for further
administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
7, 2013, Mr. Acosta-Espinoza applied for benefits, alleging
disability as of September 21, 2011. Tr. 12. Mr.
Acosta-Espinoza's applications were denied initially and
on reconsideration. Tr. 12, 134-73. The ALJ conducted a
hearing on March 5, 2015, as well as a supplemental hearing
on August 7, 2015, at which time Mr. Acosta-Espinoza moved to
amend his alleged disability onset date to October 7,
2013. Tr. 30-131. On December 28, 2015, the ALJ
issued a decision finding Mr. Acosta-Espinoza not disabled.
Tr. 12-23. Both parties acknowledge that subsequent to that
decision, and while the instant appeal was pending, Mr.
Acosta-Espinoza filed a new claim for benefits and was found
disabled with an onset date of December 29, 2015. Dkts. 17,
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Mr. Acosta-Espinoza has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged
onset date of September 21, 2011.
Step two: Mr. Acosta-Espinoza has the
following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus with
peripheral neuropathy, degenerative disc disease of the
lumbar spine, acromioclavicular joint arthritis of the left
shoulder, traction detachment of the right retina, status
post-surgery, bilateral vitreous hemorrhages of the eyes, and
proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or
equal the requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Mr.
Acosta-Espinoza can perform light work subject to the
following additional limitations: he can frequently balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; he can occasionally climb
ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and he should
have no greater than frequent exposure to vibrations and to
hazards as defined by the Dictionary of Occupational Titles
Step four: As Mr. Acosta-Espinoza can
perform past relevant work he is not disabled.
Step five: In the alternative, as there are
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that Mr. Acosta-Espinoza can perform, he is not
12-23. The Appeals Council denied Mr. Acosta-Espinoza's
request for review making the ALJ's decision the