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Midlam v. Berryhill

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

June 12, 2018

MICHAEL JOHN MIDLAM, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for Operations, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING THE CASE FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Michael John Midlam, seeks review of the denial of his October 25, 2013, application for Supplemental Insurance Security Income. Dkt. 1. Plaintiff contends the ALJ harmfully erred by failing to account for all limitations assessed by Thomas Clifford, Ph.D., Andrew Forsyth, Ph.D., Wendy Hartinger, Psy.D., and Wendi Wachsmuth, Ph.D., and by failing to provide clear and convincing reasons to reject plaintiff's testimony. Dkt. 7 at 1-2. As relief, plaintiff contends the Court should reverse the ALJ's decision and remand the case for calculation of an award of benefits. Id.

         The Commissioner disagrees, arguing the ALJ properly weighed the medical evidence and provided valid reasons to discount plaintiff's testimony. Dkt. 11. As discussed below, the Court finds the ALJ harmfully erred and REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision. The Court finds there are outstanding issues to resolve and accordingly REMANDS the matter for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Using the five-step disability evaluation process set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 416.920, the ALJ found:

Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 25, 2013.
Step two: Affective disorder, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment. See 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P. Appendix 1.
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can perform work at all exertional levels with the following non-exertional limitations: he can only occasionally climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds and have occasional exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and moving mechanical parts. He is capable of simple, routine and repetitive tasks with simple work-related decisions. He is limited to only occasional interaction with supervisors and coworkers and no interaction with the public.
Step four: Plaintiff can perform past relevant work as a laborer/assembler-production line.
Step five: Alternatively, plaintiff can perform other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy and is therefore not disabled.

Tr. 23-37. The ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final decision because the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1. The rest of the procedural history is not essential in determining the outcome of the case and is thus not recounted.

         DISCUSSION

         The Commissioner's determination that a claimant is not disabled will be upheld if the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and the proper legal standards were applied. Sc ...


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