United States District Court, W.D. Washington
DONALD J. BAYLIE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for Operations, Defendant.
P. DONOHUE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Donald J. Baylie appeals the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) that denied his applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-33 and 1381-83f, after a hearing before an administrative
law judge (“ALJ”). For the reasons set forth
below, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's decision and
REMANDS for further administrative proceedings.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
is a 52-year-old man with a high school diploma and training
as a commercial truck driver. Administrative Record
(“AR”) at 40-41. His past work experience
includes employment as a binder, temporary laborer, and
transportation specialist. AR at 217. Plaintiff was last
gainfully employed in September 2012. AR at 216.
September and December 2013, respectively, Plaintiff applied
for DIB and SSI, alleging an onset date of September 14,
2012. AR at 69-70, 187-99. Plaintiff asserts
that he is disabled due to a stroke, memory loss, stress,
depression, physical issues, tiredness, nerve damage, and
learning disabilities. AR at 215.
Commissioner denied Plaintiffs applications initially and on
reconsideration. AR at 125-28, 130-34. Plaintiff requested a
hearing, which took place on January 28, 2016. AR at 36-68.
On February 29, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled and denied benefits based on her
finding that Plaintiff could perform a specific job existing
in significant numbers in the national economy. AR at 16-30.
Plaintiffs administrative appeal of the ALJ's decision
was denied by the Appeals Council, AR at 1-6, making the
ALJ's ruling the “final decision” of the
Commissioner as that term is defined by 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). On September 21, 2017, Plaintiff timely filed the
present action challenging the Commissioner's decision.
Dkt. 1, 4.
to review the Commissioner's decision exists pursuant to
42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner's 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 (9th Cir.
2005). “Substantial evidence” is more than a
scintilla, less than a preponderance, and 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); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d
747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). The ALJ is responsible for
determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical
testimony, and resolving any other ambiguities that might
exist. Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th
Cir. 1995). While the Court is required to examine the record
as a whole, it may neither reweigh the evidence nor
substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner.
Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir.
2002). When the evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, it is the Commissioner's
conclusion that must be upheld. Id.
claimant, Mr. Baylie bears the burden of proving that he is
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act (the
“Act”). Meanel v. Apfel, 172 F.3d 1111,
1113 (9th Cir. 1999) (internal citations omitted). The Act
defines disability as the “inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity” due to a physical or
mental impairment which has lasted, or is expected to last,
for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). A claimant
is disabled under the Act only if his impairments are of such
severity that he is unable to do his previous work, and
cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience,
engage in any other substantial gainful activity existing in
the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A);
see also Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1098-99
(9th Cir. 1999).
Commissioner has established a five step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is
disabled within the meaning of the Act. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The claimant bears the
burden of proof during steps one through four. At step five,
the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Id. If a
claimant is found to be disabled at any step in the sequence,
the inquiry ends without the need to consider subsequent
steps. Step one asks whether the claimant is presently
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). If he is,
disability benefits are denied. If he is not, the
Commissioner proceeds to step two. At step two, the claimant
must establish that he has one or more medically severe
impairments, or combination of impairments, that limit his
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. If
the claimant does not have such impairments, he is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). If
the claimant does have a severe impairment, the Commissioner
moves to step three to determine whether the impairment meets
or equals any of the listed impairments described in the
regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
A claimant whose impairment meets or equals one of the
listings for the required twelve-month duration requirement
is disabled. Id.
the claimant's impairment neither meets nor equals one of
the impairments listed in the regulations, the Commissioner
must proceed to step four and evaluate the claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”). 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). Here, the Commissioner
evaluates the physical and mental demands of the
claimant's past relevant work to determine whether he can
still perform that work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f),
416.920(f). If the claimant is able to perform his past
relevant work, he is not disabled; if the opposite is true,
then the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to
show that the claimant can perform other work that exists in
significant numbers in the national economy, taking into
consideration the claimant's RFC, age, education, and
work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g),
416.920(g); Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1099, 1100. If the
Commissioner finds the claimant is unable to perform other
work, then the claimant is found disabled and benefits may be
February 29, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding the
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through March 31, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since September 14, 2013, the amended alleged onset
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
essential hypertension, gout, right should disorder, late
effects of cerebrovascular disease, affective disorder, and
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except he can frequently push and pull with his
right upper and lower extremities. He can frequently reach
with his right upper extremity. He can frequently, climb
ramps and stairs, balance, and stoop, occasionally kneel,
crouch, and crawl, and never climb ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds. He can have occasional exposure to vibration,
extreme head, fumes, odors dusts, gases, and poor
ventilation. He should have no exposure to hazards, such as
moving mechanical parts and unprotected heights. He is
limited to performing simple, routine tasks, and making
simple work-related decisions. He is limited to frequent
interaction with ...