United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER RE: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL
ALICE THEILER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
proceeds through counsel in her appeal of a final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's
application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) after a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Having
considered the ALJ's decision, the administrative record
(AR), and all memoranda, this matter is REMANDED for further
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1960. She completed high school and training
as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and a certified nursing
assistant (CNA). (AR 40-41, 227.) She previously worked as an
administrative clerk, LPN, CNA, patient transporter, and
transcribing-machine operator. (AR 25.)
protectively filed for DIB in September 2015, alleging
disability beginning September 2, 2015. (AR 206.) The
application was denied initially and on reconsideration. ALJ
C. Howard Prinsloo held a hearing on March 6, 2018, taking
testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR
33-74.) On July 2, 2018, the ALJ found plaintiff not
disabled. (AR 15-27.)
timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied the request for
review on February 21, 2019 (AR 1-5), making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff
appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to this
Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation
process for determining whether a claimant is disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2000).
At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is
gainfully employed. The ALJ noted plaintiff had worked after
the alleged onset date and was currently working part-time,
but the activity did not raise to the level of substantial
gainful activity (SGA). Plaintiff therefore had not engaged
in SGA since the application date. At step two, it must be
determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe
impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's anxiety disorder
with a history of benzodiazepine abuse, affective disorder,
and personality disorder severe. He found body dysmorphic
disorder, cervical herniated discs, and a very recent
fractured pelvis did not constitute severe impairments. Step
three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal
a listed impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or equal a listing.
claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listing,
the Commissioner must assess residual functional capacity
(RFC) and determine at step four whether the claimant
demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The
ALJ found plaintiff able to perform a full range of work at
all exertional levels, but able to have only brief and
superficial interaction with the public or co-workers and
limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. With that
RFC, plaintiff could not perform any past relevant work.
claimant demonstrates an inability to perform past relevant
work, or has no past relevant work, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to demonstrate at step five that the claimant
retains the capacity to make an adjustment to work that
exists in significant levels in the national economy. With
the VE's assistance, the ALJ found plaintiff able to
perform other jobs, such as work as a housecleaner, conveyor
feeder-offbearer, and laboratory equipment cleaner.
Court's review of the ALJ's decision is limited to
whether the decision is in accordance with the law and the
findings supported by substantial evidence in the record as a
whole. See Penny v. Sullivan, 2 F.3d 953, 956 (9th
Cir. 1993). Accord Marsh v. Colvin, 792 F.3d 1170,
1172 (9th Cir. 2015) (“We will set aside a denial of
benefits only if the denial is unsupported by substantial
evidence in the administrative record or is based on legal
error.”) Substantial evidence means more than a
scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. Magallanes v.
Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989). If there is
more than one rational interpretation, one of which supports
the ALJ's decision, the Court must uphold that decision.
Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947, 954 (9th Cir.
avers error at step two and in relation to medical opinions,
symptom and lay testimony, and other evidence. She requests
remand for further proceedings. The Commissioner argues the
ALJ's decision ...