United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DENIAL OF
L. Robart United States District Judge.
Suzie F. seeks review of the denial of her application for
disability insurance benefits. (See Compl. (Dkt. #
3).) Plaintiff contends that the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) erred in (1) discounting Plaintiff's
testimony, (2) discounting the opinions of Plaintiff's
treating primary care physician and neurologist, (3)
discounting the opinions of an examining neuropsychologist,
(4) rejecting or failing to address multiple lay witness
statements, and (5) assessing Plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”). (Pl. Op. Br. (Dkt. #
11) at 1.) As discussed below, the court REVERSES the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) and REMANDS the matter for an
award of benefits.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
the five-step disability evaluation process, 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520, the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since September 15, 2014, the
alleged onset date. See 20 C.F.R. §§
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: Multiple sclerosis (“MS”) with
residual effects. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).
Step three: Plaintiff does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525,
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(a), except that she can frequently use her upper
extremities to reach, handle, and finger. She can
occasionally stoop, squat, crouch, crawl, kneel, and climb
ramps and stairs. She can never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. She can perform unskilled, repetitive, routine
tasks in two-hour increments. She can be expected to be
absent from work up to eight days a year and be off-task up
to eight percent of the time while still meeting the minimum
production requirements of her job.
Step four: Plaintiff cannot perform any past
relevant work. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1565.
Step five: Considering Plaintiff's age,
education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff can perform. See 20 C.F.R. §§
(Admin. Record (“AR”) (Dkt. # 8) at 17-28.) The
ALJ thus found that Plaintiff had not been under a
disability, as defined by the Social Security Act
(“Act”), from September 15, 2014, through the
date of the ALJ's decision. (Id. at 28.) The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final
decision. (See Id. at 1-4.)
as the claimant, bears the burden of proving that she is
disabled within the meaning of the Act. See Meanel v.
Apfel, 172 F.3d 1111, 1113 (9th Cir. 1999). Pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the court may set aside a denial of
social security benefits only when the ALJ's findings are
based on legal error or not supported by substantial evidence
in the record as a whole. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427
F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005). The ALJ is responsible
for determining credibility, resolving conflicts in medical
testimony, and resolving any other ambiguities that exist.
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir.
1995). Although the court is required to examine the entire
record, it may neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute
its judgment for that of the ALJ. Thomas v.
Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002).
The ALJ Harmfully Erred in Discounting ...