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Shirley H. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 14, 2019

SHIRLEY H., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION

          BRIAN A. TSUCHIDA, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff seeks review of the denial of her applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. She contends the ALJ erred in assessing her testimony, the medical opinions, and lay statements.[1] Dkt. 12 at 2. For the reasons 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).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is currently 49 years old, has a ninth-grade education, and has worked as a fast food worker and manager, and an in-home caregiver. Tr. 47-48, 51-52, 317. In June 2015, she applied for benefits, alleging disability as of December 21, 2011.[2] Tr. 102-03, 282-94. Her applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 170-73, 179-90. The ALJ conducted a hearing on August 15, 2017 (Tr. 37-101), and subsequently found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 15-31. 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, [3] the ALJ found:

Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the amended alleged onset date.
Step two: Plaintiff's post-traumatic stress disorder, neurocognitive disorder, major depressive disorder, and status-post brain aneurysm are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments did not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[4]
RFC: Plaintiff can perform light work with additional limitations: she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, and can never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. She can occasionally balance and crawl. She can tolerate occasional exposure to vibration, hazards (such as open water, flames, and heights), and temperature and humidity extremes. She can understand, remember, and apply short and simple instructions while performing routine, predictable tasks in an environment that is not fast-paced. She can make simple work-related decisions. She can tolerate occasional workplace changes. She can have occasional interaction with the general public and co-workers.
Step four: Plaintiff cannot perform her past work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, she is not disabled.

Tr. 15-31.

         DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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