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Jeffery B. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 12, 2019

JEFFERY B., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS

          THERESA L. FRICKE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff has brought this matter for judicial review of defendant's denial of his applications for disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits. The parties have consented to have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that defendant's decision to deny benefits should be reversed, and that this matter should be remanded for further administrative proceedings.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance and supplemental security benefits on March 25, 2014. Dkt. 6, Administrative Record (AR) 10, 240-248, 249-255. Plaintiff alleges that he became disabled on December 8, 2011. AR 10, 50, 240, 249. Plaintiffs applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 140-142, 143-146, 149-150, 151-152. After a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an unfavorable decision on December 7, 2017, AR 7-28, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. AR 1-6. Plaintiff appealed to this Court on September 25, 201S, seeking reversal of the ALJ's decision and a remand for an award of benefits. Dkt. 1, Dkt. 8, pp. 11-12.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court will uphold an ALJ's decision unless: (1) the decision is based on legal error; or (2) the decision is not supported by substantial evidence. Revels v. Berryhill, 874 F.3d 648, 654 (9th Cir. 2017). Substantial evidence is "'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d 664, 674 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Desrosiers v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 846 F.2d 573, 576 (9th Cir. 1988)). This requires '"more than a mere scintilla, "' though '"less than a preponderance'" of the evidence. Id. (quoting Desrosiers, 846 F.2d at 576).

         The Court must consider the administrative record as a whole. Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1009 (9th Cir. 2014). The Court is required to weigh both the evidence that supports, and evidence that does not support, the ALJ's conclusion. Id. The Court may not affirm the decision of the ALJ for a reason upon which the ALJ did not rely. Id. Only the reasons identified by the ALJ are considered in the scope of the Court's review. Id.

         ISSUES FOR REVEW

         1. Did the ALJ err in evaluating the opinion of Erum Khaleeq, M.D.?

         2. Did the ALJ err in evaluating the opinions of Peter Weiss, Ph.D. and Janis Lewis, Ph.D.?

         3. Did the ALJ err in her evaluation of Plaintiffs subjective allegations?

         DISCUSSION

         The Commissioner employs a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine if a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The ALJ assesses the claimant's residual functional capacity ("RFC") to determine at step five whether he or she can make an adjustment to other work. Kennedy v. Colvin, 738 F.3d 1172, 1175 (9th Cir. 2013). It is the ALJ's burden to show the claimant can perform jobs that exist "in significant numbers in the national economy." Hill v. Astrue, 698 F.3d 1153, 1161 (9th Cir, 2012); 20C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).

         In this case, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform:

light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). He is able to occasionally reach overhead bilaterally. He is able to perform simple routine tasks, which is defined as no greater than reasoning level 2. He is able to perform work that does not require public contact. He is able to perform work that does not require more than occasional superficial contact with co-workers and that does not require team tasks.

AR 15. Based on the vocational expert's testimony that an individual with the same RFC as plaintiff-and the same age, education, and work experience-could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, the ALJ determined that were a significant number of light, unskilled jobs ...


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