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. 12, 14. Attorney Lora Lee Stover represents
Christopher D. (Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States
Attorney Alexis Toma represents the Commissioner of Social
Security (Defendant). The parties have consented to proceed
before a magistrate judge. ECF No. 6. 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. §§
filed applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on March 24, 2014, Tr.
147, 159, alleging disability since November 30, 2013, Tr.
300, 302, due to mental health issues and knee issues, Tr.
333. The applications were denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Tr. 197-200, 203-07. Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Mark Kim held a hearing on August 10, 2016 and
continued the hearing for Plaintiff to obtain legal
representation. Tr. 82-95. The ALJ held a second hearing on
February 7, 2017 and heard testimony from Plaintiff, medical
expert Stephen Rubin, Ph.D., and vocational expert Fred
Cutler. Tr. 96-146. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on
March 27, 2017. Tr. 41-56. The Appeals Council denied review
on April 3, 2018. Tr. 1-7. The ALJ's March 27, 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 filed this action for
judicial review on May 23, 2018. ECF Nos. 1, 4.
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 50 years old at the alleged date of onset. Tr. 300.
Plaintiff completed two years of college in 2012. Tr. 334.
His reported work history includes the jobs of forklift
driver, group therapist, laborer, line cook, skills coach,
dock worker, post commander, detailer, and Atta lift
operator. Tr. 334, 340. When applying for benefits Plaintiff
reported that he stopped working on November 30, 2013 because
of his conditions. Tr. 333. Plaintiff reported working since
applying for benefits. Tr. 409-10. Income records show as
many as six different employers since the alleged date of
onset. Tr. 317-24.
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) specific jobs which the
claimant can perform 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, he is found
“disabled.” 20 C.F.R. §§
March 27, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff
was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act from
November 30, 2013 through the date of the decision.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had engaged in substantial
gainful activity from June 25, 2015 through September 30,
2015. Tr. 43. However, the ALJ addressed the remaining steps
for the entire alleged period of disability, “for
completeness.” Tr. 44.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: osteoarthritis of both knees;
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; depressive
disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; and
obsessive-compulsive disorder. Tr. 44.
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the ...