United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
RACHEL H. L., Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT’S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge
filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for
judicial review of Defendant’s denial of her
application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73 and Local Rule MJR 13, the
parties have consented to have this matter heard by the
undersigned Magistrate Judge. See Dkt. 4.
parties agree the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) committed reversible error. As there are
no outstanding issues to be resolved and it is clear
Plaintiff would be found disabled if Dr. Tracy Gordy,
M.D.’s opinion is credited as true, the Court remands
this case for an award of benefits pursuant to sentence four
of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Commissioner of Social
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
March 23, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI,
alleging disability beginning January 1, 1992. See
Dkt. 9, Administrative Record (“AR”) 1511. The
application was denied upon initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. See AR 1511. After holding an
administrative hearing, ALJ Glen G. Meyers issued a decision
on January 11, 2013 finding Plaintiff not disabled. AR 36-88,
1683-1707. The Appeals Council vacated the January 2013
decision and remanded the case to an ALJ for further
proceedings. AR 176-79. On remand from the Appeals Council,
ALJ Meyers held a second administrative hearing. AR 89-132;
see also AR 1511. In a decision dated October 31,
2014, ALJ Meyers again found Plaintiff was not disabled. AR
11-34; see also AR 1511. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff’s administrative appeal. See AR 1-6.
Plaintiff appealed to the United States District Court for
the Western District of Washington (“District
Court”); the District Court remanded the case to the
Commissioner for further proceedings. See AR
remand from the District Court, the Appeals Council vacated
the October 2014 decision and remanded the case to an ALJ for
further proceedings. AR 1733-36. ALJ Kelly Wilson held an
administrative hearing on November 18, 2016. AR 1544-1612.
No. decision was rendered. ALJ Rebecca L. Jones then held an
administrative hearing and a supplemental hearing. AR
1613-1643, 1644-1682. ALJ Jones issued the third ALJ decision
in this matter on August 13, 2018, finding Plaintiff not
disabled. AR 1511-32. Plaintiff now appeals ALJ Jones’s
August 13, 2018 decision, which is the final decision of the
Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ erred by: (1)
improperly determining Plaintiff’s use of marijuana was
a factor material to her disability; (2) violating the law of
the case doctrine; (3) improperly evaluating the medical
evidence; (4) improperly evaluating Plaintiff’s
testimony; (5) improperly evaluating the lay evidence; (6)
improperly determining Plaintiff did not meet a Listing; and
(7) failing to properly assess Plaintiff’s residual
functional capacity. Dkt. 15, pp. 1-2. Plaintiff requests the
Court remand this case for an award of benefits. Id.
at pp. 27-28.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner’s denial of social security benefits if
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) (citing Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599,
601 (9th Cir. 1999)).
and Defendant agree the ALJ committed reversible error. Dkt.
15, 18, 19. Plaintiff argues the case should be remanded for
payment of benefits, while Defendant asserts the case should
be remanded for further administrative proceedings.
See Dkt. 15, 18, 19.
Court may remand a case “either for additional evidence
and findings or to award benefits.” Smolen v.
Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1292 (9th Cir. 1996). Generally,
when the Court reverses an ALJ’s decision, “the
proper course, except in rare circumstances, is to remand to
the agency for additional investigation or
explanation.” Benecke v. Barnhart, 379 F.3d
587, 595 (9th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). However, the
Ninth Circuit created a “test for determining when
evidence should be credited and an immediate award of
benefits directed[.]” Harman v. Apfel, 211
F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2000). Specifically, under this
“credit-as-true” test, benefits should be awarded
(1) the ALJ has failed to provide legally sufficient reasons
for rejecting [the claimant’s] evidence, (2) there are
no outstanding issues that must be resolved before a
determination of disability can be made, and (3) it is clear
from the record that the ALJ would be ...