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James W. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 8, 2019

JAMES W., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

          BRIAN A. TSUCHIDA CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff appeals the ALJ's decision finding him not disabled. He contends the ALJ erred in discounting the opinions of examining psychologist Kimberly Wheeler, Ph.D., and his testimony.[1] Dkt. 12 at 1. For the reasons below, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the case with for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is currently 45 years old, has a GED and some college coursework, and has worked as a temporary construction laborer; restaurant server, training manager, and supervisor; taxi driver; motor club customer service representative/dispatcher; and tow-truck driver. Tr. 139, 482, 506. In June 2015, he applied for benefits, alleging disability as of July 1, 2013. Tr. 426-32, 443-48. His applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 281-88, 291-95. The ALJ held a hearing on October 31, 2017, Tr. 131-94, and subsequently issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 19-38. As the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, the ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1-6.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [2] the ALJ found:

Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
Step two: Plaintiff's bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments did not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[3]
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, with the following limitations: he can understand, remember, and apply short, simple instructions and perform routine, predictable tasks, in a workplace that is not a fast-paced production-type environment. He can make simple decisions in work that involves exposure to few workplace changes. He cannot interact with the general public and can have no more than occasional interaction with co-workers and supervisors.
Step four: Plaintiff cannot perform his past work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, he is not disabled.

Tr. ...


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