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Ripple v. Berryhill

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

July 9, 2018

CHARLES CLYDE RIPPLE III, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for Operations, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING CASE FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Charles Clyde Ripple III, seeks review of the denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB). Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred in evaluating the medical evidence and his testimony, and asks the Court to remand for payment of benefits. Dkt. 10. As discussed below, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the matter for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is currently 50 years old, has a limited education, and has worked primarily as a roofer. Tr. 32. In May 2014, plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging disability as of April 2008. Tr. 16. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Id. After the ALJ conducted a hearing in April 2015, she issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 16- 34. In her decision, the ALJ reopened a prior application that plaintiff had filed April 2011, which had been denied because plaintiff failed to attend a consultative examination. Tr. 16. Consequently, the period at issue in this case begins April 2011. Tr. 16. With respect to the DIB claim only, plaintiff must establish disability on or before the date last insured of December 31, 2014. Tr. 17. Because neither party contends there was a substantial change in plaintiff's health since then, the Court addresses the entire period as a whole.

         II. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [1] the ALJ found:

Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of April 2008.
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease of the right knee, anxiety disorder, affective disorder, personality disorder, and substance addiction disorder.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can perform light work, lifting and carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, standing/walking four hours and sitting six hours. He can only occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. He can frequently kneel, crouch, and crawl. He can only occasionally be exposed to hazards such as moving mechanical parts and unprotected heights. He is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, simple work-related decisions, occasional interaction with coworkers, and no interaction with the public.
Step four: Plaintiff cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff can perform, he is not disabled.

Tr. 19-34. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Reviewing ...


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