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 applications for
disability insurance and supplement security income
(“SSI”) 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.
applied for disability insurance and SSI benefits in July
2014. Dkt. 10, Administrative Record (“AR”) 20.
He alleges he became disabled as of June 1, 2014.
Id. The Commissioner denied his applications on
initial administrative review and on reconsideration. AR 20.
Following a hearing, an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) determined that plaintiff could perform
jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy,
and therefore that he was not disabled. AR 20-35. Plaintiff
appeals that decision, seeking reversal and remand for
further administrative proceedings.
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, then 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 uphold the decision the ALJ
made. Carmickle v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 533
F.3d 1155, 1165 (9th Cir. 2008). The Court may not affirm by
locating a quantum of supporting evidence and ignoring the
non-supporting evidence. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d
625, 630 (9th Cir. 2007).
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
conclusion. Id. The Court may not affirm the
decision of the ALJ for a reason upon which the ALJ did not
rely. Id. at 1010. Only the reasons the ALJ
identified are considered in the scope of the Court's
1. Did the ALJ err in finding plaintiff could perform
“light” work, when the ALJ limited plaintiff to
standing and/or walking for a total of two hours in an
2. Was the ALJ required to consider whether plaintiff's
occupational base had been “significantly
3. Did the ALJ err in failing to consider whether to apply an
older age category to plaintiff?
Court holds that the ALJ erred by: Finding plaintiff could
perform light work; failing to consider whether
plaintiff's occupational base has been significantly
reduced; and failing to consider whether to apply an older
age category. The Court, for reasons described below,
reverses and remands for additional proceedings.
Commissioner employs a five-step sequential evaluation
process to determine if a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. At step five of that process,
the ALJ assesses the claimant's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to determine whether he or she
can make an adjustment to other work. Kennedy v.
Colvin, 738 F.3d 1172, 1175 (9th Cir. 2013). It is the
Commissioner's burden to show the claimant can perform
jobs that exist “in significant numbers ...