United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION
AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
B. Leighton United States District Judge.
Scott Mitchell appeals the ALJ's decision finding him not
disabled. He contends the ALJ erroneously (1) found at
step-five he can perform jobs in the national economy; (2)
failed to account for all limitations assessed by Robert
Hoskins, M.D., Michael Brown, Ph.D., Patricia Kraft, Ph.D.,
Han Johnson, Ph.D., Charles Quinci, Ph.D., Peter Weiss,
Ph.D., and Alysa Ruddell, Ph.D.; (3) ignored vocational
specialist Kathy O'Neal's opinions; and (4) rejected
his testimony about the severity of his limitations. Dkt. 10
at 1-2. For the reasons below, the Court
REVERSES the Commissioner's final
decision and REMANDS the case for further
administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
Mitchell applied for benefits in 2010. After conducting a
hearing in January 2013, the ALJ issued a decision finding
him not disabled. Tr. 27-49. Mr. Mitchell sought review of
this decision in the United States District Court. The Court
reversed the ALJ's decision and remanded the matter for
further administrative proceedings. Tr. 589-602. Following
remand, the ALJ conducted a hearing and issued a decision on
October 21, 2015, finding Mr. Mitchell not disabled. Tr.
511-554. Mr. Mitchell seeks review of this decision, which is
the final decision of the Commissioner.
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Mr. Mitchell has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since November 22, 2010.
Step two: Degenerative joint disease of the
right knee, tendinosis of the supraspinatus tendon and
osteoarthritic change in glenohumeral articulation and
acromioclavicular (AC) joint without significant impingement
of the tendon, polysubstance abuse in reported remission,
psychosis NOS and mood disorder NOS are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or
equal the requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Mr. Mitchell
can perform light work except he can occasionally climb,
stoop, kneel, bend, crouch, and crawl; he should avoid
extreme cold and vibration; he is limited to performing
simple, repetitive tasks that involve no more than incidental
public contact; he is limited to no more than occasional
overhead reaching with the left upper extremity; he is
limited to work environments with noise level three or below;
and in an eight hour day he can stand and walk no more than
Step four: Mr. Mitchell has no past relevant
Step five: There are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Mr. Mitchell
can perform and he is thus not disabled.
Court will reverse the ALJ's decision only if it is not
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole or
if the ALJ applied the wrong legal standard. Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th Cir. 2012). The
ALJ's decision may not be reversed on account of an error
that is harmless. Id. at 1111. Where the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the
Court must uphold the Commissioner's interpretation.
The ALJ's Step-Five Determination
step-five, the ALJ found the vocational expert (VE) testified
a person with Mr. Mitchell's RFC “would be able to
perform the requirements of representative occupations such
as routing clerk (D.O.T. 22.687-022) . . . and laundry folder
(D.O.T. 369.687-018). Tr. 530. Mr. Mitchell contends the ALJ
harmfully erred in two respects. First he correctly argues
the VE testified a person limited to standing and walking no
more than two hours in an eight hour day, such as Mr.
Mitchell “wouldn't be able to do the routing
clerk.” Tr. 554. The ALJ accordingly erred in finding
Mr. Mitchell could perform the routing clerk job.
he contends the laundry folder job “requires more than
‘simple repetitive tasks' as in the RFC
finding.” Dkt. 10 at 4-5. He argues the laundry folder
job, which requires DOT reasoning level 2 demands more than a
person who is limited to jobs involving simple repetitive
tasks. Id. The argument fails. There is no conflict
between an RFC limited to simple repetitive tasks and the DOT
level 2 reasoning requirements of laundry folder. See
Hernandez v. Berryhill, 707 Fed.Appx. 456, 458 (9th Cir.
2017) (“There was no apparent conflict between the
ALJ's residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
determination that Hernandez was “limited to simple,
repetitive tasks” and the vocational expert's
testimony that she could work as an envelope addresser, a job
which the U.S. Department of Labor's Dictionary of
Occupational Titles describes as requiring ‘Level
the Court rejects Mr. Mitchell's contention the ALJ
identified jobs he cannot perform. While Mr. Mitchell cannot
perform work as a routing clerk, there is no conflict between
the ability to perform simple repetitive work and the towel
folder jobs which requires level 2 reasoning. ...