United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
STANLEY A. BASTIAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment, ECF Nos. 12 and 13. The motions were heard without
oral argument. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
grants Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, denies
Defendant's motion for summary judgment, and remands for
a new hearing.
March 9, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Title II application for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits, along
with a Title XVI application for supplemental security
income. These claims were denied, and Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). On March
10, 2017, a hearing was held before an ALJ, who issued an
unfavorable decision on April 14, 2017. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 25, 2018.
Plaintiff timely appealed to this Court. This matter is
properly before the Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and
42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).
Social Security Act defines disability as the
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1382c(a)(3)(A). A claimant shall be determined to be
under a disability only if his impairments are of such
severity that the claimant is not only unable to do his
previous work, but cannot, considering the claimant's
age, education, and work experiences, engage in any other
substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process for determining whether a person meets the
definition of disabled under the Social Security Act. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 140-42 (1987).
one, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is presently
engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). Substantial gainful activity is
defined as significant physical or mental activities done or
usually done for profit. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572. If the
individual is engaged in substantial gainful activity, he or
she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1571. If not, the
ALJ proceeds to step two.
two, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a severe
medically determinable impairment, or combination of
impairments, that significantly limits the claimant's
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). If the claimant does not have a
severe medically determinable impairment or combination of
impairments, he or she is not disabled. If the ALJ finds the
claimant does have a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, the ALJ proceeds to step three.
three, the ALJ must determine whether any of the
claimant's severe impairments “meets or
equals” one of the listed impairments acknowledged by
the Commissioner to be sufficiently severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(d), 404.1525; 20 C.F.R. § 404. Subpt. P. App. 1
(“the Listings”). If the impairment meets or
equals one of the listed impairments, the claimant is per
se disabled and qualifies for benefits. If not, the ALJ
proceeds to the fourth step.
considering step four, the ALJ must determine the
claimant's “residual functional capacity.” 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). An individual's residual
functional capacity is his or her ability to do physical and
mental work activities on a sustained basis despite
limitations from his impairments. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(1). In making this finding, the ALJ must consider
all of the relevant medical and other evidence. 20 C.F.R.
four, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant's
residual functional capacity enables the claimant to perform
past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e)-(f). If the
claimant can still perform past relevant work, he or she is
not disabled. If the ALJ finds the claimant cannot perform
past relevant work, the analysis proceeds to the fifth step.
five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove the
claimant is able to perform other work in the national
economy, taking into account claimant's age, education,
work experience, and residual functional capacity. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(g). To meet this burden, the Commissioner
must establish (1) the claimant is capable of performing
other work; and (2) such work exists in significant numbers
in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c)(2);
Tackett v. Apfel, 180 F.3d 1094, 1099 (9th Cir.
facts have been presented in the administrative transcript,
the ALJ's decision, and the briefs to this Court. Only
the most relevant facts are summarized here.
alleges a disability onset date of November 20, 2014, due to
a combination of back and neck problems and mental health
disorders. Plaintiff's struggles include social anxiety
induced anxiety, which make public interactions and basic
functions like riding a bus or procuring groceries difficult
without accompaniment, depression, decreased cognitive
functioning, and abrupt outbursts of anger.
step one, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured
status requirements, and had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since November 20, 2014, the amended alleged
onset date. AR 28.
step two, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: cervical and lumbar degenerative disc
disease; obesity; bipolar disorder; major depressive
disorder; borderline intellectual functioning; personality
disorder NOS; and cannabis use disorder. AR 28.
step three, the ALJ found Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the listed