United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge.
Sarah Angelina Thomas proceeds through counsel in her appeal
of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner
denied Plaintiff's applications for Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) after a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Having
considered the ALJ's decision, the administrative record
(AR), and all memoranda of record, this matter is REVERSED
and REMANDED for further administrative proceedings.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1975. She has a high school diploma, and has
worked as a business manager, receptionist, and paralegal.
applied for SSI and DIB in November 2013. (AR 292-304.) Those
applications were denied and Plaintiff timely requested a
hearing. (AR 155-63, 165-77.)
October 20, 2015, ALJ Glenn G. Meyers held a hearing, taking
testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR
38-75.) On May 4, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled. (AR 15-31.) Plaintiff timely
appealed. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on July 27, 2017 (AR 1-6), making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff
appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to this
Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation
process for determining whether a claimant is disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2000).
At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is
gainfully employed. The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since January 7, 2014, the
alleged onset date. (AR 17.) At step two, it must be
determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe
impairment. The ALJ found severe Plaintiff's seizure
disorder, diabetes mellitus, diabetic retinopathy, history of
right eye laser surgery, depressive disorder, anxiety
disorder, substance abuse in remission, headaches, and
post-traumatic stress disorder. (AR 17-18.) Step three asks
whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed
impairment. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments
did not meet or equal the criteria of a listed impairment.
claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listing,
the Commissioner must assess residual functional capacity
(RFC) and determine at step four whether the claimant has
demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The
ALJ found Plaintiff capable of performing light work with
additional restrictions. She can perform simple, repetitive
tasks in two-hour increments. She can have superficial,
incidental contact with the public. She can work in proximity
to, but not in coordination with co-workers. She can have
occasional contact with supervisors. She would be off-task at
work up to 10% of the time, but still meet minimum production
requirements. She would be absent one day per month. She can
frequently engage in activities requiring depth perception.
The claimant must avoid working at unprotected heights. She
can never balance or drive. She can never work in hazardous
conditions, such as around moving machinery. (AR 20.) With
that assessment, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform
past relevant work. (AR 29.)
claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant
work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate at
step five that the claimant retains the capacity to make an
adjustment to work that exists in significant levels in the
national economy. With the assistance of the VE, the ALJ
found Plaintiff capable of transitioning to other
representative occupations, including bottle packer;
production assembler; and assembler, electrical accessories
I. (AR 30-31.)
Court's review of the ALJ's decision is limited to
whether the decision is in accordance with the law and the
findings supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole. See Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th
Cir. 1993). Substantial evidence means more than a scintilla,
but less than a preponderance; it means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d
747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). If there is more than one rational
interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision,
the Court must uphold that decision. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002).
arguesthe ALJ erred in (1) finding at step three that she did
not meet Listings 9.00, 12.04, or 12.06; (2) assessing
certain medical evidence and opinions; (3) discounting her
own testimony; (4) rejecting statements written by
Plaintiff's daughter; and (5) failing to account for her
seizures when assessing her RFC. The Commissioner argues that
the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence
and should be affirmed.