United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
ALICE THEILER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
proceeds through counsel in his appeal of a final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's
application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) 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, 1967. He completed high school and some trade
school classes, and previously worked as a tool maker and
forklift operator. (AR 170, 194.)
protectively filed an application for DIB on February 22,
2016, alleging disability beginning May 29, 2013. (AR
302-03.) His application was denied initially and on
September 11, 2017, ALJ Malcolm Ross held a hearing, taking
testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR
164-200.) On February 13, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision
finding plaintiff not disabled. (AR 16-28.)
timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review on October 31, 2018 (AR 1-6), 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 plaintiff 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 the following
impairments severe: cervical spondylosis and stenosis, status
post four surgeries resulting in C5-C6 fusion; left shoulder
abnormality, status post-surgical procedures; depression; and
anxiety. 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, with the
following restrictions: never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; occasionally climb ramps or stairs and crawl;
frequently balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch; occasionally
reach overhead with bilateral upper extremities; frequently
handle and finger with non-dominant left hand; occasional
exposure to extreme cold, vibrations, and hazards, such as
heights and machinery; occasional interaction with co-workers
and members of public; and simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks, in a work environment free from fast-paced production
requirements. With that assessment, the ALJ found plaintiff
unable to perform his past relevant work.
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 housekeeper, small
products assembler, and mail clerk.
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 ...