United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
T. RODGERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
THE COURT are cross-motions for summary judgment. ECF Nos.
16, 17. Attorney Cory J. Brandt represents Michael G.
(Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney Justin
Lane Martin represents the Commissioner of Social Security
(Defendant). The parties have consented to proceed before a
magistrate judge. ECF No. 4. After reviewing the
administrative record and the briefs filed by the parties,
the Court GRANTS, in part, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment; DENIES Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment;
and REMANDS the matter to the Commissioner for additional
proceedings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
filed applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on October 28, 2014, Tr.
76-77, alleging disability since June 30, 2008, Tr. 154, 161,
due to a back injury in 2008 followed by surgery, right leg
sciatica, and nerve damage at ¶ 5-S1. Tr. 188. The
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Tr. 92-94, 97-101. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Jesse
Shumway held a hearing on January 24, 2017 and heard
testimony from Plaintiff, medical expert Lynn Jahnke, M.D.
and vocational expert Daniel McKinney. Tr. 34-65. The ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision on March 9, 2017. Tr. 15-27.
The Appeals Council denied review on March 13, 2018. Tr. 1-6.
The ALJ's March 9, 2017 decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner, which is appealable to the
district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
1383(c). Plaintiff initiated this action for judicial review
on May 18, 2018. ECF Nos. 1, 7.
facts of the case are set forth in the administrative hearing
transcript, the ALJ's decision, and the briefs of the
parties. They are only briefly summarized here.
was 32 years old at the alleged date of onset. Tr. 154. At
application, he reported that he completed two years of
college in 2006. Tr. 189. His reported work history includes
being an apprentice repair technician at a heavy equipment
dealership, a day laborer, and a production supervisor in the
food industry. Id. When applying for benefits
Plaintiff reported that he stopped working on October 31,
2013 because of his conditions, but he had also made changes
in his work activity as early as February 20, 2008. Tr. 188.
At the hearing, Plaintiff clarified that in 2001 he worked as
a cabinetmaker for three months, from 2003 and 2004 he worked
building custom doors, from 2004 to 2005 he worked in
woodworking at night while he attended school, and from 2006
to 2008 he worked as an entry level mechanic for heavy
equipment. Tr. 47-51.
was injured on February 20, 2008 and underwent a lumbar
discectomy on July 3, 2008. Tr. 797, 862. Following surgery,
Plaintiff worked for Vista Utilities in 2012 inspecting gas
meters and at Manpower in 2013 as a forklift driver. Tr.
40-41. He also attended school in 2011 and 2012 to learn how
to repair hospital equipment. Tr. 41, 59.
is responsible for determining credibility, resolving
conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving ambiguities.
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995). The Court reviews the ALJ's determinations of law
de novo, deferring to a reasonable interpretation of the
statutes. McNatt v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1084, 1087 (9th
Cir. 2000). The decision of the ALJ may be reversed only if
it is not supported by substantial evidence or if it is based
on legal error. Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094,
1097 (9th Cir. 1999). Substantial evidence is defined as
being more than a mere scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. Id. at 1098. Put another way,
substantial evidence 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). If the evidence is susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, the court may not substitute its
judgment for that of the ALJ. Tackett, 180 F.3d at
1097. If substantial evidence supports the administrative
findings, or if conflicting evidence supports a finding of
either disability or non-disability, the ALJ's
determination is conclusive. Sprague v. Bowen, 812
F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (9th Cir. 1987). Nevertheless, a decision
supported by substantial evidence will be set aside if the
proper legal standards were not applied in weighing the
evidence and making the decision. Brawner v. Secretary of
Health and Human Services, 839 F.2d 432, 433 (9th Cir.
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a);
see Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987).
In steps one through four, the burden of proof rests upon the
claimant to establish a prima facie case of entitlement to
disability benefits. Tackett, 180 F.3d at 1098-99.
This burden is met once the claimant establishes that
physical or mental impairments prevent him from engaging in
his previous occupations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a),
416.920(a)(4). If the claimant cannot do his past relevant
work, the ALJ proceeds to step five, and the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to show that (1) the claimant can make an
adjustment to other work, and (2) the claimant can perform
specific jobs which exist in the national economy. Batson
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190,
1193-94 (9th Cir. 2004). If the claimant cannot make an
adjustment to other work in the national economy, a finding
of “disabled” is made. 20 C.F.R. §§
March 9, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff
was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act from
June 30, 2008 through the date of the decision.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since June 30, 2008, the alleged date of
onset. Tr. 17.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairment: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine. Tr. 17.
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments. Tr. 19.
four, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's residual function
capacity and determined he could perform a range of light
work with the following limitations:
the claimant requires a sit/stand option at will; he can
stand and walk in combination only two hours total in an
eight-hour day, thirty minutes at a time; he can frequently
reach; he cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and can
perform all other postural activities only occasionally; he
can have no concentrated exposure to extreme cold or
vibration; he cannot be exposed to hazards, ...