Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

McGrath v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

February 26, 2018

NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         This matter comes before the Court on review of the file herein.

         Procedural History. On April 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed this civil action, alleging that the Social Security Administration improperly denied his application for disability insurance when the ALJ: (1) failed to properly consider the medical evidence, including the opinions of Jack M. Litman, Ph.D., Amanda J. Ragonesi, Psy.D., Kristin Tand, LMHC, Eugene Krebsbach, M.D., and others; (2) failed to evaluate Plaintiff's testimony; (3) did not accurately assess the lay evidence; (4) failed to properly determine Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”); and (5) did not meet the burden of showing that there were other jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. Dkt. 13. Plaintiff argues that the Court should reverse the ALJ's decision and award him benefits. Id. The Commissioner concedes that the ALJ did not properly consider all the medical evidence, and so failed to properly assess Plaintiff's RFC or show that Plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy. Dkt. 17. The Commissioner asserts that the credibility determination and assessment of “lay witness” testimony was not in error. Id. She maintains that the case should be remanded for further proceedings because there are conflicts in the medical record that need to be resolved before a decision on an award of benefits is possible. Id.

         Basic Data. Born in 1962, Plaintiff has prior work experience as an injection molder, production operator, and carpenter. Tr. 19. He has at least a high school education. Id.

         ALJ Decision. The ALJ found: (1) that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act; (2) that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 31, 2012, the amended alleged onset date; (3) that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: lumbar degenerative disc disease with radiculopathy, headaches, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”), post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), and depression; that the impairments, even in combination, did not qualify under the Listings; (4) that the Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity:

. . . to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) with the following additional limitations: the claimant can lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. He can sit, stand, and walk for 6 hours each in an 8 hour workday. The claimant can climb ladders and scaffolds frequently. He should avoid dusts, fumes, gases. He is limited to moderate noise levels. The claimant can perform work involving simple, routine and repetitive tasks and simple work-related decisions. He can interact with the public occasionally.

that he has no past relevant work; and lastly, (5) that Plaintiff could perform other work existing in the national economy, such as an assembler, produce sorter, and laundry folder. Tr. 11-20. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Id.

         Legal Standard. The findings of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration are conclusive (42 U.S.C. § 405(g)), and the decision of the Commissioner to deny benefits will be overturned only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or it is based on legal error. Gonzalez v. Sullivan, 914 F.2d 1197, 1200 (9th Cir.1990).


         Plaintiff asserts that this case should be remanded for an immediate award of benefits (Dkts. 13 and 18) and the Commissioner maintains it should be remanded for further proceedings (Dkt. 17).

         “When the ALJ denies benefits and the court finds error, the court ordinarily must remand to the agency for further proceedings before directing an award of benefits.” Leon v. Berryhill, 880 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2017)(as amended on January 25, 2018). Where an ALJ improperly rejects a medical opinion or a claimant's pain testimony as incredible “without providing legally sufficient reasons, the reviewing court may grant a direct award of benefits when certain conditions are met. The three-part analysis for such conditions is known as the “credit-as-true” rule.” Id.

         First, the court considers whether “the ALJ has failed to provide legally sufficient reasons for rejecting the evidence, whether claimant testimony or medical opinion.” Treichler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 775 F.3d 1090, 1100-01 (9th Cir. 2014)(internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Second, if the ALJ erred, the court determines “whether there are outstanding issues that must be resolved before a determination of disability can be made and whether further administrative proceedings would be useful.” Id., at 1101 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Third, if no outstanding issues remain and further proceedings would not be useful, the court may apply the credit as true rule, “finding the relevant testimony credible as a matter of law, ” and then determine “whether the record, taken as a whole, leaves not the slightest uncertainty as to the outcome of the proceeding.” Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         When all three elements of the credit-as-true rule are satisfied, a case raises the rare circumstances that allow a court to exercise discretion to depart from the ordinary remand rule. Treichler, at 1101. Even when those “rare circumstances are present, the decision whether to remand a case for additional evidence or simply to award benefits is in [the court's] discretion.” Id., at 1101-02 (citing Harman v. Apfel, 211 F.3d at 1178 (holding that the exercise of authority to remand for benefits “was intended to be discretionary and should be reviewed for abuse of discretion”)).

         Part One - Has the ALJ Failed to Properly Assess the Medical Evidence, the Claimant'sTestimony, ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.