Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Johnson v. Berryhill

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

June 15, 2018

TINA MARIE JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for Operations, Defendant.

          ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL

          Mary Alice Theiler, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Tina Marie Johnson proceeds through counsel in her appeal of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner). The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application for 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.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1967.[1] She has a GED, and previously worked as an accountant and data entry operator. (AR 256.)

         Plaintiff applied for DIB in November 2013. (AR 234-37.) That application was denied and Plaintiff timely requested a hearing. (AR 156-62, 164-73.)

         On November 19, 2015, ALJ Marilyn Mauer held a hearing, taking testimony from Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR 38-75.) On February 18, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled between March 14, 2012 (the day after entrance of Plaintiff's prior administratively final ALJ decision finding her not disabled) and September 3, 2014, but disabled as of September 4, 2014. (AR 31-48.) Plaintiff timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 13, 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.

         JURISDICTION

         The Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         DISCUSSION

         The 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 the alleged onset date. (AR 33.) At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found severe Plaintiff's obstructive sleep apnea, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and thoracic spine, status post cervical fusion, depressive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. (AR 34-35.) 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. (AR 35-36.)

         If a 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 that before September 4, 2014 (the onset of disability), Plaintiff had the RFC to perform sedentary work with additional limitations. She could lift 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently. She could sit, stand, and walk for six hours each in an eight-hour workday, but required the option to alternate between sitting and standing every two hours. She could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She could occasionally climb ramps and stairs. She could frequently balance. She could occasionally stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl. She could occasionally reach overhead. She must avoid all exposure to hazards, such as unprotected heights and large, moving equipment. She could perform simple instructions in a setting that allows for variable concentration, attention, and pace throughout the day (i.e., she could “work in a setting with no strict production pace so long as adequate work is completed by the end of the workday or workweek”). (AR 36.) She could work in a setting with no public contact or teamwork assignments, and occasional co-worker and supervisory contact. (Id.) Beginning on September 4, 2014, she would have the same RFC as described above, but could only perform simple instructions for up to 2/3 of a workday, and would be off-task for the remainder of the day. (AR 44.) The ALJ found that since her alleged onset date, Plaintiff had been unable to perform any past work. (AR 45.)

         If a 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. The ALJ found that before September 4, 2014, Plaintiff could perform representative occupations such as surveillance system monitor and document preparer. (AR 46.) Beginning on September 4, 2014, Plaintiff could not perform any jobs that exist in significant levels in the national economy. (AR 47.)

         This 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).

         Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in (1) discounting opinions written by examining providers, (2) discounting lay statements written by Plaintiff's mother, and (3) discounting her own testimony that she needed to recline during a workday and was unable to sustain concentration for two-hour increments.[2] The Commissioner ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.