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Sharpes v. Berryhill

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

May 23, 2018

RICKY RAY SHARPES, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS

          JAMES L. ROBART, United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Ricky Ray Sharpes seeks review of the denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. Mr. Sharpes contends the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (1) misevaluated his symptom testimony; and (2) misevaluated the opinion of Peter Weiss, Ph.D. (Op. Br. (Dkt. # 9) at 4-12.)[1] As discussed below, the court REVERSES Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill's (the “Commissioner”) final decision and REMANDS the matter for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [2] the ALJ found:

Step one: Mr. Sharpes has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 3, 2015, the alleged disability onset date.
Step two: Mr. Sharpes has the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis; degenerative disc disease; status post cervical fusion; fibromyalgia; migraines; minimal degenerative osteophytosis and mild degeneration of the knees; and major depressive disorder.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[3]
Residual Functional Capacity: Mr. Sharpes can perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). He can stand/walk for six hours in an eight-hour workday, and sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday. He must be permitted to change position from sitting to standing, or standing to sitting every 30 minutes at the workstation. He can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch. He can never crawl. He can occasionally perform overhead reaching bilaterally. He can frequently handle and finger bilaterally. He must avoid concentrated exposure to cold, vibrations, and hazards. He is limited to unskilled and semi-skilled tasks consistent with a specific vocational preparation (“SVP”) of up to four. He can have occasional public contact.
Step four: Mr. Sharpes cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: Mr. Sharpes can perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, including office helper, mail clerk, and delivery driver. Therefore, Mr. Sharpes has not been disabled since February 3, 2015, the alleged disability onset date.

(Administrative Record (“AR”) (Dkt. # 7) at 13-24.) The Appeals Council denied Mr. Sharpes's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision final. (Id. at 1.)[4]

         III. DISCUSSION

         Mr. Sharpes, as the claimant, bears the burden of proving he is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act (“Act”). See Meanel v. Apfel, 172 F.3d 1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the court may only set aside a denial of social security benefits when the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005). The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving any other ambiguities that exist. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). While the court ...


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