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Andrea T. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

October 21, 2019

ANDREA T., 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 applications for disability insurance and supplemental security income 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 further administrative proceedings.

         I. ISSUES FOR REVEW

         1. Did the ALJ fail to develop the record with respect to Plaintiff's cognitive impairment?

         2. Did the ALJ err in finding there were a significant number of jobs Plaintiff could perform at Step Five?

         3. Did the ALJ properly evaluate the medical opinion evidence?

         4. Did the ALJ err in discounting lay witness testimony?

         5. Did the ALJ err in evaluating Plaintiff's symptom testimony?

         II. BACKGROUND

         On December 18, 2014, Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits, alleging a disability onset date of February 14, 2012. AR 63, 387-93, 394-402. Plaintiff's applications were denied upon initial administrative review and on reconsideration. AR 63, 263-65, 266-69, 281-85, 286-92. A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Allen Erickson on May 25, 2017. AR 143-204. In a decision dated November 1, 2017, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 60-76. The Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on October 15, 2018. AR 1-7.

         On December 19, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the ALJ's written decision. Dkt. 4. Plaintiff asks this Court to reverse the ALJ's decision and to remand this case for additional proceedings. Dkt. 13, 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. ...


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