United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge.
proceeds through counsel in her appeal of a final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's
application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) after a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Having
considered the ALJ's decision, the administrative record
(AR), and all memoranda, this matter is REMANDED for further
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1965. She completed high school and two years
of college. (AR 64.) While she performed some part-time work,
plaintiff has not performed substantial gainful activity
since 1994 and has no qualifying past relevant work. (AR 38,
52, 62, 66-67, 85.)
protectively filed for SSI on June 10, 2015, alleging
disability beginning October 30, 2008. (AR 225-33.) The
application was denied initially and on reconsideration.
August 2, 2017, ALJ Rudolph Murgo held a hearing, taking
testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR
58-91.) At hearing, plaintiff amended her alleged onset date
to her June 10, 2015 SSI application date. On October 4,
2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not
disabled since the application date. (AR 17-27.) The ALJ
noted the denial of a prior application on June 26, 2013 was
administratively final, but the presumption of continuing
non-disability had been rebutted given the intervening change
in plaintiff's age category. (AR 17.)
timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review on July 18, 2018 (AR 1), making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to
Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation
process for determining whether a claimant is disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2000).
At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is
gainfully employed. The ALJ found that, while plaintiff
worked as a caregiver/companion for several months in 2016,
she had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the
alleged onset date. At step two, it must be determined
whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ
found plaintiff's obesity, degenerative disc disease of
the spine, depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress
disorder severe. Step three asks whether a claimant's
impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found
plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal the
criteria of a listed impairment.
claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listing,
the Commissioner must assess residual functional capacity
(RFC) and determine at step four whether the claimant has
demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The
ALJ found plaintiff able to perform light work, except that
she is limited to occasional climbing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and crawling, and should avoid concentrated
exposure to cold, vibration, and hazards. He also found
plaintiff limited to simple, entry-level work and to not more
than occasional interaction with the public and co-workers.
Plaintiff had no past relevant work to consider at step four.
claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant
work, or has no past relevant work, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to demonstrate at step five that the claimant
retains the capacity to make an adjustment to work that
exists in significant levels in the national economy. With
the assistance of the VE, the ALJ found plaintiff capable of
performing other jobs, such as work as a routing clerk,
production assembler, and bottling line attendant.
Court's review of the ALJ's decision is limited to
whether the decision is in accordance with the law and the
findings supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole. See Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th
Cir. 1993). Accord Marsh v. Colvin, 792 F.3d 1170,
1172 (9th Cir. 2015) (“We will set aside a denial of
benefits only if the denial is unsupported by substantial
evidence in the administrative record or is based on legal
error.”) Substantial evidence means more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. Magallanes v.
Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). If ...