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Terrence G. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 4, 2019

TERRENCE G., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          MICHELLE L. PETERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff seeks review of the denial of his applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred in excluding bipolar disorder as a severe impairment at step two, in discounting an examining psychologist's opinion, and in finding that he could perform his past relevant work at step four. (Dkt. # 11 at 1.) As discussed below, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the case for further administrative proceedings.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born in 1953, has a college degree and some graduate education, and has worked as a taxi dispatcher, fast food driver, personal caregiver, temporary laborer, and concession worker. AR at 407, 630. Plaintiff was last gainfully employed in 2015. Id. at 407.

         In October 2015, Plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging disability as of August 21, 2015. AR at 380-87. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing. Id. at 290-303, 206-25, 329-20. After the ALJ conducted a hearing on July 11, 2017 (id. at 201-31), the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. Id. at 13-23.

         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: Plaintiff's lithium toxicity is a severe impairment.
Step three: This impairment does not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”): Plaintiff can perform light work with additional limitations: he can lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. He can stand and/or walk six hours in an eight-hour workday. He can frequently climb ramps and stairs, stoop, and crawl. He must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, vibration, and hazards such as heights and dangerous moving machinery. He has sufficient concentration, persistence, and pace for complex and detailed tasks performed in two-hour increments with usual and customary breaks throuought an eight-hour workday. He should have only occasional contact with supervisors and he should not work in coordination with his co-workers (i.e., he can work in the same room with co-workers but no coordination of such as in a conveyer belt situation where the final product is dependent on each other).
Step four: Plaintiff can perform past relevant work and is therefore not disabled.

AR at 13-23.

         As the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, the ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final decision. AR at 1-7. Plaintiff appealed the ...


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