United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION
AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
S. LASNIK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lucius appeals the decision of the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) finding him not disabled. He contends the
ALJ erroneously rejected his testimony, and the opinions of
Dr. Wingate, Dr. Bowes, and Mr. Childs. He argues, based on
these errors, that the ALJ's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) determination and hypothetical questions
to the vocational expert (“VE”) fail to account
for all of his limitations. Mr. Lucius also contends the ALJ
erred at step four by ignoring the reasoning level required
to perform the job of a Cashier. Dkt. # 9 at 1. For the
reasons below, the Commissioner's final decision is
REVERSED and REMANDED for
further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
November 2013, Mr. Lucius applied for Social Security
Disability, and Supplemental Security Income benefits under
Titles II and XVI alleging disability as of October 1, 2012.
Administrative Record (“AR”) 220-26; 227-35. He
later abandoned his Title II claim when he amended his onset
date. AR 54-55. After conducting a hearing on May 21, 2015,
the ALJ issued a decision finding Mr. Lucius not disabled. AR
3-49. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. AR 6.
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Mr. Lucius has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since November 5, 2013.
Step two: Mr. Lucius has the following
severe impairments: major depressive disorder, generalized
anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, right
shoulder tendinopathy status post acromioplasty, status post
right hand tendon repair, and obesity.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or
equal the requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Mr. Lucius can
perform light work except he can occasionally push and pull
and frequently reach overhead, handle and finger with the
right upper extremity; occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds; frequently crawl; and tolerate concentrated
exposure to excessive vibration and hazards like unprotected
heights and moving machinery. Mentally he can understand and
remember simple job instructions; perform simple, routine,
and repetitive tasks; make simple decisions; tolerate simple
changes in work settings; maintain attention and
concentration for two hour intervals to complete such tasks
without more than normally expected brief interruptions.
Socially he can tolerate superficial interaction with
coworkers, supervisors and the public.
Step four: Mr. Lucius can perform past
relevant work as a cashier.
Step five: Alternatively, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that Mr. Lucius can perform.
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.
Tommasetti v. Astrue, 533 F.3d 1035, 1038 (9th
Evaluation of the Medical Evidence and Other Source
Lucius argues the ALJ erroneously rejected the opinions of
Terilee Wingate, Ph.D., Tasmyn Bowes, Ph.D., and Cephus
Child, MHP. Dkt. # 9 at 4-13.
determines credibility and resolves ambiguities and conflicts
in the medical evidence. See Reddick v. Chater, 157
F.3d 715, 722 (9th Cir. 1998). Where the medical evidence in
the record is inconclusive, “questions of credibility
and resolution of conflicts” are solely the functions
of the ALJ. Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639, 642
(9th Cir. 1982). In such cases, “the ALJ's
conclusion must be upheld.” Morgan v. Comm'r,
Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 601 (9th Cir. 1999).
Determining whether inconsistencies in the medical evidence
“are material (or are in fact ...