United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING FOR ADDITIONAL
Theresa L. Fricke United States Magistrate Judge.
brought this matter for judicial review of the
Commissioner's denial of her application for supplemental
security income (“SSI”). As explained below, the
Court reverses and remands because the ALJ erred by failing
to consider Plaintiff's symptom testimony, and because
there is not substantial evidence to support the ALJ's
determination that there were substantial jobs in the
national economy that plaintiff would be able to perform.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
January 28, 2014, plaintiff filed an application for SSI,
alleging disability beginning February 1, 2012. Dkt. 8,
Administrative Record (“AR”) 16. Her application
was denied on initial administrative review and on
reconsideration. Id. Plaintiff appeared and
testified at two hearings before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). Id. On May 10, 2017, the ALJ
determined plaintiff was not disabled. AR 13.
Commissioner employs a five-step sequential disability
evaluation process in determining whether a claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. If the claimant is found
disabled or not disabled at any step thereof, the disability
determination is made at that step, and the sequential
evaluation process ends. Id. Step one considers
whether the claimant is engaged in “substantial gainful
activity.” Kennedy v. Colvin, 738 F.3d 1172,
1175 (9th Cir. 2013) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)).
Step two considers “the severity of the claimant's
impairments.” Id. If the claimant is found to
have a severe impairment, step three considers “whether
the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments
meets or equals a listing under 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P,
app. 1.” Id. “If so, the claimant is
considered disabled and benefits are awarded, ending the
inquiry.” Id. If not, the claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) is
considered at step four in determining whether the claimant
can still do his or her past relevant work and, if necessary,
at step five “make an adjustment to other work.”
one, the ALJ determined plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since plaintiff's
application date of January 28, 2014. At step two, the ALJ
found plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
“left knee degenerative joint disease; left shoulder
degenerative joint disease; carpal tunnel syndrome;
dysphagia/Barrett's esophagus; h pylori, gastroesophageal
reflux disease; gastric nodule; lymphadenopathy; thoracic
adenopathy; sarcoidosis/non-necrotizing granulomatous
inflammation; history of bone tumor (enchondroma); morbid
obesity; fibromyalgia, chronic pain disorder; and
obesity[.]” AR 18. At step three, the ALJ found
plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments. AR 22.
to step four, the ALJ determined plaintiff had the RFC to
perform sedentary work with additional mental limitations and
physical limitations related to hazards, the environment,
posture, climbing, and use of the upper extremities.
See AR 22-23. After determining plaintiff's RFC,
the ALJ found at step four plaintiff has no past relevant
work, but that at step five she could perform jobs existing
in significant numbers in the national economy, and therefore
found plaintiff was not disabled. AR 36.
seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision, arguing the ALJ
erred by (1) not providing legally sufficient reasons to
discount plaintiff's testimony about the combined impacts
of her impairments; (2) not providing legally sufficient
reasons to discount the opinions of plaintiff's treating
provider Don Prater PA-C; and (3) wrongly concluding there
were sufficient jobs in the national economy plaintiff could
perform. See Dkt. 10, pp. 1-13.
Court will uphold an ALJ's decision unless: (1) the
decision is based on legal error; or (2) the decision is 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.
Court must consider the administrative record as a whole.
Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009-10 (9th Cir.
2014). The Court is required to weigh both the evidence that
supports, and evidence that does not support, the ALJ's
conclusion. Id. The Court reviews “only the
reasons provided by the ALJ in the disability determination
and may not affirm the ALJ on a ground upon which he did not
rely.” Id. at 1010.
than one rational interpretation can be drawn from the
evidence, then the Court must uphold the ALJ's
interpretation. Orn v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 625, 630
(9th Cir. 2007). That is, “[w]here there is conflicting
evidence sufficient to support either outcome, ” the
Court “must affirm the decision actually made.”
Allen v. Heckler, 749 F.2d 577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984)
(quoting Rhinehart v. Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th
Cir. 1971)). The Court, however, may not affirm by locating a
quantum of supporting evidence and ignoring the
non-supporting evidence. Orn, 495 F.3d at 630.
Whether the ALJ appropriately evaluated plaintiff's
contends the ALJ erred in discounting her testimony regarding
the limitations that her impairments cause. Dkt. 11, pp. 4-5.
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit uses a
two-step inquiry for determining whether and to what extent
the claimant's testimony about severity of symptoms must
• First, has the claimant presented objective medical
evidence of an impairment that reasonably could produce the
pain or other symptoms alleged? The claimant is not required
to show that the impairment could reasonably be expected to
result in the exact severity of symptoms that the claimant
alleges; the claimant is only required to show that the
impairment could reasonably have caused some degree of the
symptoms. The claimant is not required ...