United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING, IN PART, PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND REMANDING FOR ADDITIONAL
T. RODGERS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE COURT are cross-motions for summary judgment.
ECF No. 13, 14. Attorney Jeffrey Schwab represents Michaelle
Marie Osborne (Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States
Attorney Ryan Lu represents the Commissioner of Social
Security (Defendant). The parties have consented to proceed
before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 7. After reviewing the
administrative record and the briefs filed by the parties,
the Court GRANTS, IN PART, Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment; DENIES
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment; and
REMANDS the matter to the Commissioner for
additional proceedings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income on March 14, 2014, and February
13, 2014, respectively, alleging disability since July 1,
2012, due to anxiety, depression, fearfulness, PTSD, panic
attacks, fatigue and body aches. Tr. 367, 374, 443. The
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Mark Kim held hearings on July
27, 2016, Tr. 43-70, and November 1, 2016, Tr. 71-109, and
issued an unfavorable decision on November 22, 2016, Tr.
21-32. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review on February 21, 2017. Tr. 1-6. The ALJ's November
2016 decision thus became the final decision of the
Commissioner, which is appealable to the district court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff filed this
action for judicial review on April 20, 2017. ECF No. 1, 4.
was born on June 1, 1967, and was 45 years old on the alleged
onset date, July 1, 2012. Tr. 367, 374. Plaintiff earned a
GED and has completed some college. Tr. 75-76. She has past
work as a caregiver, a unit clerk and a cashier. Tr. 97,
101-102. Plaintiff stated she believed she could no longer
work due to her physical issues and inability to stay
focused. Tr. 93.
testified at the administrative hearing on November 1, 2016,
that she had nerve issues with her legs (beginning in
September 2016), pain in her right shoulder, problems with
her neck causing tingling and reduced strength in her
arms/hands (brachial plexus), and heart issues/chest pain.
Tr. 78-81. Plaintiff also described anxiety/PTSD, Tr. 83-86,
94, migraine headaches, Tr. 88, tremors, Tr. 90-91, and
difficulty with concentration, Tr. 92.
has a long history of alcohol-related problems. Plaintiff
testified she had been sober since September 2016 and had a
six-month period of sobriety prior to the September relapse.
is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995). The ALJ's determinations of law are reviewed
de novo, with deference to a reasonable
interpretation of the applicable statutes. McNatt v.
Apfel, 201 F.3d 1084, 1087 (9th Cir. 2000). The decision
of the ALJ may be reversed only if it is not supported by
substantial evidence or if it is based on legal error.
Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1097 (9th Cir.
1999). Substantial evidence is defined as being more than a
mere scintilla, but less than a preponderance. Id.
at 1098. Put another way, substantial evidence is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). If the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the
Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ.
Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1097; Morgan v.
Commissioner of Social Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 599
(9th Cir. 1999). If substantial evidence supports the
administrative findings, or if conflicting evidence supports
a finding of either disability or non-disability, the
ALJ's determination is conclusive. Sprague v.
Bowen, 812 F.2d 1226, 1229-1230 (9th Cir. 1987).
Nevertheless, a decision supported by substantial evidence
will be set aside if the proper legal standards were not
applied in weighing the evidence and making the decision.
Brawner v. Secretary of Health and Human Services,
839 F.2d 432, 433 (9th Cir. 1988).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a);
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-142 (1987). In
steps one through four, the burden of proof rests upon the
claimant to establish a prima facie case of entitlement to
disability benefits. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098-1099.
This burden is met once a claimant establishes that a
physical or mental impairment prevents the claimant from
engaging in past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). If a claimant cannot perform
past relevant work, the ALJ proceeds to step five, and the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that (1) the
claimant can make an adjustment to other work; and (2)
specific jobs which the claimant can perform exist in the
national economy. Batson v. Commissioner of Social Sec.
Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1193-1194 (2004). If a claimant
cannot make an adjustment to other work in the national
economy, a finding of “disabled” is made. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v).
November 22, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Social Security
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since July 1, 2012, the alleged onset date.
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: cervical spine degenerative disk disease, right
brachial plexopathy, right shoulder impingement,
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive
disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and alcohol
dependence. Tr. 23.
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments. Tr. 24.
assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC)
and found Plaintiff could perform light exertion work, with
the following nonexertional limitations: she should never
climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds or crawl; she can
occasionally push and pull with her bilateral upper
extremities, but she should never reach overhead with her
dominant right upper extremity and only occasionally reach
overhead with her non-dominant left upper extremity; she can
occasionally reach in all other directions with the bilateral
upper extremities; she can frequently handle, finger, and
feel with her dominant right hand; she should avoid all
exposure to excessive vibrations and hazards like moving
machinery and unprotected heights; she can perform simple,
routine tasks in a low stress environment, defined as only
occasional changes; and she can have occasional interaction
with the public and coworkers. Tr. 25-26.
four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to perform her past
relevant work as a ...