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Marvin C. v. Berryhill

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

April 16, 2019

MARVIN C., Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for Operations Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS

          THERESA L. FRICKE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff 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.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff 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.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The 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).

         The ALJ 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).

         The 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 review. Id.

         ISSUES FOR REVEW

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 eight-hour workday?
2. Was the ALJ required to consider whether plaintiff's occupational base had been “significantly reduced”?
3. Did the ALJ err in failing to consider whether to apply an older age category to plaintiff?

         HOLDING

         The 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.

         DISCUSSION

         The 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 ...


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