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Bell v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

February 28, 2018

MICHAEL W. BELL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

          ROBERT S. LASNIK United States District Judge.

         Michael W. Bell appeals the decision of the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) finding him not disabled. He contends that the ALJ harmfully erred in rejecting the opinions of Tasmyn Bowes, Ph.D., and his testimony, and that the Court should reverse and remand the case for an award of benefits or for further proceedings. Dkt. 13 at 1. For the reasons 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. § 405(g).

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [1] the ALJ found:

Step one: Mr. Bell has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 2013.
Step two: Mr. Bell has the following severe impairments: obesity, degenerative disc disease, right ankle status post fusion, chronic pain syndrome, right shoulder abnormality, major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), rule out generalized anxiety disorder/panic disorder, history of head injuries, rule out cognitive disorder, rule out learning disabilities, and adjustment.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
Residual Functional Capacity: Mr. Bell can perform light work subject to additional physical, environments and mental limitations.
Step four: Mr. Bell cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: Mr. Bell can perform other jobs in the national economy and is not disabled.

Tr. 18-32. The ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final decision because the Appeals Council denied review. Tr.1.[3]

         DISCUSSION

         A. The ALJ's Evaluation of Dr. Bowes' Opinions

         Dr. Bowes opined that Mr. Bell is moderately limited in his mental ability to perform basic work functions and is markedly limited in “understanding, remembering, and persisting in tasks by following detailed instructions, and performing activities within a schedule, maintaining regular attendance and being punctual with customary tolerances without special supervision.” Tr. 28. The ALJ gave Dr. Bowes' opinions “some weight” but gave “the marked limitation in persistence . . . little weight ...


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