United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING THE COMMISSIONER'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
THERESA L. FRICKE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
appeals the Commissioner's denial of his application for
disability insurance benefits. The parties have consented to
have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge.
28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73;
Local Rule MJR 13. For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded for
further administrative proceedings.
April 24, 2014, plaintiff applied for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Dkt. 6,
Administrative Record (AR) 18. He alleges his disability
began on March 6, 2014. Id. The Commissioner denied
the application on initial administrative review and on
a hearing, an administrative law judge (ALJ) employed the
Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation process to
find that plaintiff could perform his past work as an
electrical engineer at step four of that process, and
therefore that he was not disabled. AR 18-36.
seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand for an
award of benefits.
Court will uphold an ALJ's decision unless it is: (1)
based on legal error; or (2) not supported by substantial
evidence. Revels v. Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654
(9th Cir. 2017). Substantial evidence is “‘such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.'” Biestek v.
Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019) (quoting
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938)). This requires “more than a mere scintilla,
” though “less than a preponderance” of the
evidence. Id.; Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871
F.3d 664, 674-75 (9th Cir. 2017).
is responsible for determining credibility and for resolving
any conflicts or ambiguities in the record. Treichler v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 775 F.3d 1090, 1098 (9th
Cir. 2014). If more than one rational interpretation can be
drawn from the evidence, the Court must uphold the ALJ's
interpretation. Trevizo, 871 F.3d at 674-75. That
is, where the evidence is sufficient to support more than one
outcome, the Court must uphold the decision the ALJ made.
Carmickle v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d
1155, 1165 (9th Cir. 2008).
Court must consider the administrative record as a whole.
Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir.
2014). The Court also must weigh both the evidence that
supports, and evidence that does not support the ALJ's
Court may not affirm the ALJ's decision by locating a
quantum of supporting evidence and ignoring non-supporting
evidence. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630 (9th Cir.
2007). The Court also may not affirm for a reason upon which
the ALJ did not rely. Garrison, 759 F.3d at 1010.
Rather, only the reasons the ALJ identified are considered in
the scope of the Court's review. Id.
(1) Did the ALJ fail to offer specific and legitimate reasons
for rejecting plaintiff's treating physician's
(2) Did the ALJ fail to offer clear and convincing reasons
for discounting plaintiff's allegations concerning the
severity and limiting effects of his impairments?
(3) Did the ALJ fail to o germane reasons for rejecting the
observations of plaintiff's spouse?
carefully considering each of the issues plaintiff has
raised, along with the ALJ's decision and the
administrative record, the Court holds the ALJ erred in
discounting plaintiff's allegations and in rejecting the
testimony of plaintiff's spouse. Due to those errors, the
ALJ's decision is reversed. But because serious doubts