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. 14, 18. Attorney Dana C. Madsen represents Timothy
M. (Plaintiff); Special Assistant United States Attorney
Daphne Banay 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 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), 1383(c).
filed applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on May 28, 2015, Tr.
83-84, alleging disability since April 1, 2015, Tr. 221, 228,
due to multiple mental health issues, anxiety, anhedonia,
persistent depressive disorder, antisocial personality
disorder, left knee pain, meralgia paresthtica, memory
issues, vision problems, and bursitis, Tr. 270. The
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Tr. 151-54, 160-72. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Caroline
Siderius held a hearing on February 16, 2017 and heard
testimony from Plaintiff, medical expert Charles Cooke, M.D.,
and vocational expert Sharon Welter. Tr. 38-82. The ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision on April 5, 2017. Tr. 17-32.
The Appeals Council denied review on February 20, 2018. Tr.
1-5. The ALJ's April 5, 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
April 20, 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 46 years old at the alleged date of onset. Tr. 221. The
highest grade Plaintiff completed was the eleventh. Tr. 271.
His reported work history includes the jobs of construction
worker, delivery/truck driver, food service worker,
landscaper, and welder. Tr. 250, 272. When applying for
benefits Plaintiff reported that he stopped working on April
1, 2015 because of his conditions. Tr. 270.
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 significant numbers 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. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
April 5, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff
was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act from
April 1, 2015 through the date of the decision.
one, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since April 1, 2015, the alleged date of
onset. Tr. 17.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical
and lumbar spine; degenerative joint disease of the knee;
sleep apnea; depressive disorder; and anxiety disorder. Tr.
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. 20.
four, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's residual function
capacity and determined that he could perform a range of
light work with the following limitations:
[T]he claimant can lift or carry 20 pounds occasionally and
frequently. He can stand or walk 6 hours in an 8-hour
workday, with an option to sit or stand at will. The claimant
can frequently climb sta[i]rs or ramps, but may not climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant may occasionally
kneel, stoop, and crawl. The claimant may not operate heavy
machinery and equipment, but may operate motor vehicles
frequently. He may not be exposed to unprotected heights. The
claimant may have frequent exposure to wetness or humidity,
but must avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants.
He may frequently operate foot controls. The claimant can
perform simple, repetitive tasks, and occasional detailed
work. He may have superficial, brief contact with the general
public and coworkers.
Tr. 22. The ALJ identified Plaintiff's past relevant work
as welder, irrigation system installer, automobile detailer,
construction worker, cook, and forest firefighter and found
that he ...