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Hines v. Berryhill

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

February 12, 2018

CRAIG HINES, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING CASE FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Craig Hines seeks review of the denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. Mr. Hines' lawyer filed an opening brief that violates the Court's scheduling order, Dkt. 8, in that it fails to list the errors alleged beginning on page one, and sets forth the issue for review in general statements, exactly as the Court prohibits. Counsel is advised that future briefs that fail to conform to the Court's scheduling order may be summarily stricken.

         Mr. Hines contends the ALJ's residual functional capacity (RFC) determination fails to account for all of his physical and mental limitations. Dkt. 9. 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. § 405(g).

         BACKGROUND

         Mr. Hines is currently 57 years old, has a limited education, and has worked as a truck operator, stock clerk, and stores laborer. Tr. 28. Mr. Hines was previously awarded disability income, ending upon his incarceration in July 2010. Tr. 19. After his release in December 2013, Mr. Hines filed a reapplication for supplemental security income, amended to allege disability as of the reapplication date, which was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 19. ALJ Ilene Sloan conducted a hearing and, on November 23, 2015, issued a decision finding Mr. Hines not disabled. Tr. 19-30.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [1] the ALJ found:

Step one: Mr. Hines has not worked since the reapplication date.
Step two: Mr. Hines has the following severe impairments: status post multiple bilateral foot surgeries, obesity, borderline intellectual functioning, depressive disorder, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), personality disorder, and cocaine dependence.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
Residual Functional Capacity: Mr. Hines can perform medium work, frequently stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and climbing ramps and stairs, occasionally climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, and with no limitation on balancing. He can perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks but nothing detailed or complex. He is limited to no more than occasional contact with the public, and no tandem tasks or tasks involving cooperative team effort.
Step four: Mr. Hines cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he can perform, Mr. Hines is not disabled.

         Tr. 21-29. The Appeals Council denied Mr. Hines' request for review, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1.[3]

         DISCUSSION

         Mr. Hines contends the ALJ's RFC determination fails to account for all of his physical and mental limitations. He argues the ALJ erroneously found (1) he has the RFC to perform medium duty work, when the medical evidence shows he is limited to light or sedentary work, (2) he can perform simple, routine work without accounting for his difficulty in maintaining concentration, ...


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