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Robert P. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

October 11, 2019

ROBERT P., 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 application for disability insurance benefits.

         The parties have consented to have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73; Local Rule MJR 13. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned agrees that the ALJ erred and the ALJ's decision is reversed and remanded for an award of benefits as to the period between March 12, 2012 and September 30, 2017.

         I. ISSUES FOR REVEW

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

         2. Did the ALJ err in failing to find Plaintiff's mental impairments severe at step two?

         II. BACKGROUND

         On April 23, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits, alleging a disability onset date of March 12, 2012. AR 22, 170-71, 918. Plaintiff's application was denied upon initial administrative review and on reconsideration. AR 22, 91-93, 105-09, 918. A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) James Sherry on November 18, 2014. AR 40-69. In a decision dated January 7, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 19-31, 992-1009. The Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 28, 2016. AR 1-6, 1010-13.

         Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the ALJ's written decision on June 9, 2016. AR 1015. On May 12, 2017, this Court reversed the ALJ's decision and remanded this case for further consideration of the medical opinion evidence, specifically the opinions of Louis Kretschmer, M.D., Mitchell Weinstein, M.D., and Dale Thuline, M.D. AR 947, 1020-33.

         On April 12, 2018, ALJ Rebecca Jones held a new hearing. AR 948-91. On October 31, 2018, ALJ Jones issued a new decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 915-39. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the ALJ's written decision on January 24, 2019. Dkt. 1.

         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. ...


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