United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER AND REMANDING FOR
B. LEIGHTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Marilyn McMath seeks review of the denial of her application
for Disability Insurance Benefits. She contends the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred in (1)
failing to find schizophrenia to be a severe impairment at
step two, (2) failing to consider whether she meets or equals
Listing 12.03 at step three, (3) assessing various medical
opinions, and (4) failing to account for all credited
limitations in the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) assessment and hypothetical to the
vocational expert (“VE”). Dkt. 15 at 1. 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.
McMath is currently 58 years old, has training as a secretary
and three years of college education, and has worked as an
administrative assistant, retail assistant manager,
foreclosure assistant, and retail sales associate. Tr. 3,
191, 203. In June 2012, she applied for benefits, alleging
disability as of December 10, 2011. Tr. 176-80. Her
application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr.
107-13, 115-19. The ALJ conducted a hearing on July 2, 2013
(Tr. 30-73), and subsequently found Ms. McMath not disabled.
Tr. 15-25. The Appeals Council denied Ms. McMath's
request for review. Tr. 1-4.
McMath sought judicial review, and the U.S. District Court
for the Western District of Washington granted the
parties' stipulation to reverse the ALJ's decision
and remand the case for further administrative proceedings.
Tr. 510-11. The ALJ held another hearing on December 29, 2015
(Tr. 441-83), and subsequently found Ms. McMath not disabled.
Tr. 421-34. As the Appeals Council declined to assume
jurisdiction, the ALJ's decision is the
Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 408-13.
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Ms. McMath had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity between the time of her alleged
onset and her date last insured (“DLI”).
Step two: Ms. McMath's severe
impairments include degenerative disc disease, obesity,
anxiety, and “depression with schizophrenia.”
Step three: These impairments did not meet
or equal the requirements of a listed impairment,
specifically Listings 1.00B2b, 12.04, or 12.06.
RFC: Ms. McMath can perform light work with
additional limitations: she can frequently climb ramps and
stairs, and stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. She can never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She should avoid
concentrated exposure to extreme cold, vibration, and hazards
such as dangerous machinery and unprotected heights. She can
reach overhead frequently. She can perform simple, routine
tasks and make simple work decisions, with customary breaks
and lunch. She can occasionally interact with the public for
work tasks, and have superficial contact with co-workers. She
can work in a “low stress” environment
“defined as only occasional changes in the work
environment.” Her work should emphasize duties dealing
with things/objects rather than people. She would be off-task
up to 10% over the course of an eight-hour workday.
Step four: Ms. McMath could not perform her
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Ms. McMath
can perform, ...