United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MICHELLE L. PETERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks review of the denial of her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the administrative law
judge (“ALJ”) erred by rejecting the opinions of
treating physician Dennis Mann, D.O., Plaintiff's
testimony, and the opinion of physical therapist Theodore
Becker, Ph.D. (Dkt. # 13 at 1-2.) As discussed below, the
Court RECOMMENDS that the Commissioner's final decision
be REVERSED and REMANDED for further administrative
was born in 1965 and has the equivalent of a high school
education. AR at 75. Plaintiff has worked as a bench
assembler, and was last gainfully employed in April 2013. AR
September 30, 2014, Plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging
disability as of April 12, 2014. AR at 57. Plaintiff's
application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and
Plaintiff requested a hearing. AR at 22. After the ALJ
conducted a hearing on August 29, 2016, as well as a
supplemental hearing on February 16, 2017, the ALJ issued a
decision finding Plaintiff not disabled on May 18, 2017. AR
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since April 12, 2013, the alleged onset date.
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe impairments:
history of cerebrovascular accident (CVA), lumbar and
cervical spine degenerative disc disease, distal
interphalangeal (DIP) and interphalangeal (IP) degenerative
joint changes, De Quervain's tenosynovitis, history of
lateral epicondylitis, and Morton's neuroma with
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the
requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can perform light
work, except that she can only occasionally stoop, kneel, and
crouch, but never climb, balance, or crawl. She should avoid
concentrated exposure to vibration and hazards. She cannot
rapidly or repeatedly rotate head from side-to-side as would
be necessary to drive, but can turn her head or body as
necessary to look side-to-side. She cannot rapidly or
repeatedly flex the neck (such as might be required by a
surgeon) by moving the head forward or by bending the joint
resulting in a decrease of angle, but she is able to flex her
neck and use her eyes sufficiently to look down. Similarly,
she cannot rapidly or repeatedly extend the neck (such as
might be required by an electrician doing overhead work by
moving the head backwards or by bending the joint resulting
in an increase of angle) but is able to extend neck and use
eyes sufficiently to look up.
Plaintiff can perform simple, routine tasks and follow short,
simple instructions. She can do work that needs little or no
judgment, and can perform simple duties that can be learned
on the job in a short period. She can work in proximity to
co-workers but not in a cooperative or team effort. She
requires a work environment that has no more than superficial
interactions with co-workers. She would not deal with the
general public as in a sales position, or where the general
public is frequently encountered as an essential element of
the work process. Incidental contact of a superficial nature
with the general public is not precluded.
Step four: Plaintiff can perform past relevant work as a
Step five: Alternatively, there are other jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform, such as basket filler or egg sorter/handler.
Plaintiff is therefore not disabled.
AR at 19-46.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review,
the ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final
decision. AR at 13-18. After requesting and receiving an
extension of time, Plaintiff timely appealed the final
decision of the Commissioner to this Court. (Dkt. # 4.)
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits 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 (9th Cir.
2005). As a general principle, an ALJ's error may be
deemed harmless where it is “inconsequential to the
ultimate nondisability determination.” Molina v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104, 1115 (9th Cir. 2012) (cited
sources omitted). The Court looks to “the record as a
whole to determine whether the error alters the outcome of
the case.” Id.
evidence” is more than a scintilla, less than a
preponderance, and is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir.
1989). The ALJ is responsible for determining credibility,
resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving any
other ambiguities that might exist. Andrews v.
Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). While the
Court is required to examine the record as a whole, it may
neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for
that of the Commissioner. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278
F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir. 2002). When the evidence is
susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, it is
the Commissioner's conclusion that must be upheld.