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Anthony O. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

October 16, 2019

ANTHONY O., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER AND REMANDING

          Brian A. Tsuchida Chief United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff appeals the ALJ's decision finding him not disabled. He contends the ALJ erred in assessing the medical evidence, and in discounting his testimony and a lay statement.[1] Dkt. 12 at 1. Plaintiff requests the matter be remanded for further proceedings. As discussed below, the Court finds the ALJ erred in rejecting Dr. Higgins' opinion and REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the case for further administrative proceedings.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is currently 49 years old, has a 12th-grade education and a GED, and has worked as a construction worker, car accessory inspector, and furniture delivery driver. Tr. 49, 252, 268- 71. In January 2016, he applied for benefits, alleging disability as of January 1, 2015.[2] Tr. 221-33. His applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 141-54, 157-68. The ALJ conducted a hearing on November 16, 2017 (Tr. 40-81), and subsequently found Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 17-31. As the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, the ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1-6.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [3] the ALJ found:

Step one: Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the amended alleged onset date.
Step two: Plaintiff's history of pancreatitis with associated gastritis and alcohol-related ketoacitis, bilateral lower extremity polyneuropathy and peripheral nerve disease related to alcoholism, substance addiction disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments did not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[4]
RFC: Plaintiff can perform sedentary work with additional impairments: he can stand/walk for no more than about two hours in an eight-hour workday, and can sit for at least six hours in an eight-hour workday. He could occasionally lift/carry 10 pounds. He could not keep up with fast-paced or rapid production demands. He could not work at unprotected heights. He could not work in commercial driving or otherwise operate potentially dangerous moving equipement. He could infrequently use foot controls. He could only occasionally be required to walk on uneven or broken ground. He could not balance frequently. He should [not] work around open containers of alcohol.
Step four: Plaintiff could not perform his past work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, he is not disabled.

Tr. 17-31.

         DISCUSSION

         A. ...


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