United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
T. RODGERS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE COURT are cross-motions for summary judgment.
ECF Nos. 13, 14. Attorney Christopher H. Dellert represents
Richard Todd Kinkeade (Plaintiff); Special Assistant United
States Attorney Michael S. Howard represents the Commissioner
of Social Security (Defendant). The parties have consented to
proceed before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 6. After reviewing
the administrative record and the briefs filed by the
parties, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment; DENIES
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment; and
REMANDS the matter to the Commissioner for
additional proceedings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
filed applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on April 11, 2013, Tr.
231, alleging disability since January 31, 2012, Tr. 188,
190, due to a back condition, general anxiety disorder,
bipolar disorder, essential tremor, left leg nerve damage,
high blood pressure, agoraphobia, social phobia, and a
cholesterol condition, Tr. 235. The applications were denied
initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 145-49, 153-59.
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Caroline Siderius held a
hearing on August 11, 2015 and heard testimony from
Plaintiff, psychological expert, Thomas McKnight, Ph.D., and
vocational expert, Jeffrey Tittelfitz. Tr. 38-92. The ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision on September 16, 2015. Tr.
10-22. The Appeals Council denied review on March 20, 2017.
Tr. 1-4. The ALJ's September 16, 2015 decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner, which is appealable to
the district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Plaintiff filed this action for judicial review on May 22,
2017. ECF Nos. 1, 4.
facts of the case are set forth in the administrative hearing
transcript, the ALJ's decision, and the briefs of the
parties. They are only briefly summarized here.
was 48 years old at the alleged date of onset. Tr. 188. He
completed three years of college in 1985. Tr. 236. His work
history includes the jobs driver/machine operator, manual
laborer, and real estate appraiser. Tr. 236, 251. Plaintiff
reported that he stopped working on October 15, 2012 due to
his conditions, but had made changes to his work activities
because of his conditions as early as January 1, 2001. Tr.
is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995). The Court reviews the ALJ's determinations of law
de novo, deferring to a reasonable interpretation of the
statutes. McNatt v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1084, 1087 (9th
Cir. 2000). The decision of the ALJ may be reversed only if
it is not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based
on legal error. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094,
1097 (9th Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is defined as
being more than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. Id. at 1098. Put another way,
substantial evidence 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). If the evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, the court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ. Tackett, 180 F.3d at
1097. If substantial evidence supports the administrative
findings, or if conflicting evidence supports a finding of
either disability or non-disability, the ALJ's
determination is conclusive. Sprague v. Bowen, 812
F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987). Nevertheless, a decision
supported by substantial evidence will be set aside if the
proper legal standards were not applied in weighing the
evidence and making the decision. Brawner v. Secretary of
Health and Human Services, 839 F.2d 432, 433 (9th Cir.
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a);
see Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987).
In steps one through four, the burden of proof rests upon the
claimant to establish a prima facie case of entitlement to
disability benefits. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098-99.
This burden is met once the claimant establishes that
physical or mental impairments prevent him from engaging in
his previous occupations. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). If the claimant cannot do his
past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to step five, and the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that (1) the
claimant can make an adjustment to other work, and (2)
specific jobs which the claimant can perform exist in the
national economy. Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193-94 (9th Cir. 2004). If the
claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work in the
national economy, a finding of “disabled” is
made. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
September 16, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Social Security
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since January 31, 2012, the alleged date of
onset. Tr. 12.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “degenerative disc disease, and mental
impairments described as panic disorder and mood
disorder.” Tr. 13.
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the