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Elizabeth I. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

October 21, 2019

ELIZABETH I., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          MICHELLE L. PETERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff seeks review of the denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred in discounting a medical opinion, her testimony, and her husband's testimony.[1] (Dkt. # 10 at 1.) Plaintiff contends that these errors warrant a remand under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). In the alternative, Plaintiff argues that evidence submitted for the first time to the Appeals Council warrants a remand under sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Commissioner argues that a remand under either sentence four or sentence six is not necessary because the ALJ's decision is free of harmful legal error and is supported by substantial evidence. As discussed below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final decision and DISMISSES the case with prejudice.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born in 1974, has a high school diploma, and previously worked as a shipping and receiving clerk, certified nursing assistant, and sidle machine operator. AR at 59-60, 230. Plaintiff was last gainfully employed in December 2014. Id. at 229.

         In September 2015, Plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging disability as of December 18, 2014. AR at 212-15. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing. Id. at 128-30, 134-40. After the ALJ conducted a hearing on August 15, 2017 (id. at 51-109), the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. Id. at 35-45.

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [2] the ALJ found:

Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 18, 2014.

         Step two: Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, status post surgery; degenerative disc disease and degenerative joint disease of the thoracic spine; and degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis of the lumbar spine are severe impairments.

Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[3]
RFC: Plaintiff can perform sedentary work with additional limitations: she can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can only occasionally climb stairs or ramps. She can only occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. She can only occasionally reach overhead bilaterally. She can only occasionally use bilateral foot controls. She can only occasionally be exposed to vibration or extreme cold.
Step four: Plaintiff cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, ...

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