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 of record, this matter is REVERSED
and REMANDED for further administrative proceedings.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1969. She has a high school diploma, and has
worked as a medical biller, in-home caregiver, manufacturing
laborer, and auto supply parts driver. (AR 306, 335.)
protectively applied for SSI in September 2015. (AR 180,
283-89.) That application was denied and Plaintiff timely
requested a hearing. (AR 211-19, 223-32.)
20, 2017, ALJ Gerald Hill held a hearing, taking testimony
from Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR 109-54.) On
December 29, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled. (AR 24-34.) Plaintiff timely
appealed. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on September 21, 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 September 29, 2015, the
application date. (AR 27.) At step two, it must be determined
whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ
found severe Plaintiff's major depressive disorder,
obesity, and genetic disorder with findings most consistent
with myotonia congenita. (Id.) Step three asks
whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed
impairment. The ALJ found that 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 capable of performing sedentary work,
with additional limitations: she cannot climb ladders, ropes,
or scaffolds. She can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs. She can perform
work that does not expose her to extreme temperatures,
humidity, or hazards. She can perform simple repetitive
tasks. She can tolerate occasional superficial contact with
co-workers. She can perform work that does not require
contact with the public. She can tolerate few workplace
changes. (AR 28.) With that assessment, the ALJ found
Plaintiff unable to perform past relevant work as a
telemarketer. (AR 32-33.)
claimant demonstrates an inability to perform 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 transitioning to other
representative occupations, such as bench hand, table worker,
and masker. (AR 33-34.)
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). 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 there is more than one rational
interpretation, one of which supports the ALJ's decision,
the Court must uphold that decision. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002).
argues the ALJ erred in (1) assessing the opinion of
examining physician Beth Liu, M.D.; (2) discounting her
subjective symptom testimony; and (3) failing to incorporate
all of the restrictions in the RFC assessment contained in
the prior ALJ decision. The Commissioner argues that ...