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Kenneth F. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 1, 2019

KENNETH F., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          MICHELLE L. PETERSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff seeks review of the partial denial of his application for Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred in (1) finding that he did not meet or equal Listing 1.04, (2) discounting his subjective reports of pain, (3) assessing an opinion of his treating physician, (4) assessing his residual functional capacity (“RFC”), (5) assessing the disability rating of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”), (6) rejecting the lay testimony, (7) failing to resolve a discrepancy between the written RFC assessment and the hypotheticals posed to the vocational expert (“VE”), and (8) relying on jobs at step five that do not exist in significant numbers. (Dkt. # 9 at 1-2.) 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).

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born in 1967, has a GED, and has worked as a landscaper and maintenance technician. AR at 48-49, 242. Plaintiff was last gainfully employed in December 2015. Id. at 242.

         On December 31, 2015, Plaintiff protectively applied for benefits, alleging disability as of December 10, 2015. AR at 214-15. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing. Id. at 134-40, 142-50. After the ALJ conducted a hearing on November 9, 2017 (id. at 40-101), the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. Id. at 18-32.

Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [1] the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
Step two: Since the alleged onset date, Plaintiff's cervical spine degenerative disc disease, status post lumbar spine surgery, lumbar spine spondylolisthesis, posttraumatic stress disorder, and alcohol dependence were severe impairments.
Step three: Since the alleged onset date, these impairments did not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
RFC: Since the alleged onset date, Plaintiff could perform sedentary work with additional limitations. He cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He can occasionally climb ramps and stairs. He can perform postural activities on an occasional basis. He can occasionally use foot controls bilaterally. He can occasionally reach overhead bilaterally. He can have occasional exposure to vibration and extreme cold temperatures. He must occasionally use a cane to ambulate. He can understand, remember and apply detailed, not complex, instructions. He can have occasional interaction with the general public and co-workers.
Step four: Since the alleged onset date, Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work.
Step five: Prior to July 12, 2017, there were jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. He became disabled on July 12, 2017, at which point he could not ...

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