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Matthew L. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

May 21, 2019

MATTHEW L., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION AND REMANDING THE CASE

          BRIAN A. TSUCHIDA, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff seeks review of the denial of his application for Disability Insurance Benefits. He contends the ALJ erred in discounting his testimony; discounting the opinion of examining psychologist Philip Gibson, Ph.D.; discounting the disability rating rendered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”); and discounting a statement written by his wife. Dkt. 12 at 2.[1] As discussed below, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the matter for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is currently 44 years old; has a GED and one year of college education, as well as training in computerized accounting; and has worked as a newspaper delivery driver, retail inventory clerk, and retail electronics sales associate. Tr. 55, 95, 311, 340. In November 2015, he applied for benefits, alleging disability as of July 3, 2014. Tr. 279-82. His application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 175-77, 185-90. The ALJ conducted hearings in October 2016 and September 2017 (Tr. 41-130), and subsequently found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 21-34. As the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, the ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1-6.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [2] the ALJ found:

Step one: Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
Step two: Plaintiff's lumbar spine degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, and seizure disorder are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments did not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[3]
RFC: Plaintiff can perform light work with additional limitations: he cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He cannot tolerate exposure to hazards in the workplace, such as moving machinery and unprotected heights. He cannot drive commercially. He can occasionally crawl. He can tolerate occasional exposure to vibration and temperature/humidity extremes.
Step four: Plaintiff can perform his past work as a retail sales clerk, and is therefore not disabled.

Tr. 21-34.

         DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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