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Jana S. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

October 3, 2019

JANA S., 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 her application for supplemental security income. The parties have consented to have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. For the reasons set forth below, the ALJ's decision is reversed and remanded for an award of benefits.

         I. ISSUES FOR REVIEW

         1. Did the ALJ err in evaluating the medical opinion evidence?

         2. Did the ALJ err in finding Plaintiff's mental health impairments non-severe at step two of the sequential evaluation?

         3. Did the ALJ err in evaluating Plaintiff's subjective allegations?

         4. Did the ALJ err in assessing Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”)?

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 9, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for supplementary security income. AR 34, 334-39.[1] Plaintiff initially alleged a disability onset date of January 1, 2010, but later amended this to April 1, 2015. AR 34, 169. Plaintiff's application was denied upon administrative review and on reconsideration. AR 263-69, 274-80. A hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on March 31, 2017. AR 164-217.

         In a decision dated November 1, 2017, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 31-50. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on October 1, 2018. AR 1-7. On November 30, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint with this Court, seeking reversal and remand for an award of benefits; the parties have consented to the Magistrate Judge's jurisdiction. Dkt. 4, Dkt 12, p. 18.

         III. 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.'” Biestek v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019). This requires “more than a mere scintilla” of evidence. Id.

         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.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         The Commissioner uses a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine if a claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. The ALJ assesses the claimant's RFC to determine, at step four, whether the Plaintiff can perform past relevant work, and if necessary, at step five to determine whether the Plaintiff can adjust to other work. Kennedy v. Colvin, 738 F.3d 1172, 1175 (9th Cir. 2013). The ALJ has the burden of proof at step five to show that a significant number of jobs that the ...


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