United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER
HONORABLE RICHARD A. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Tina M. seeks review of the denial of her application for
Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred by
rejecting her testimony, two doctors' opinions, and four
lay witness statements. Dkt. 10. As discussed below, the
Court REVERSES the Commissioner's final
decision and REMANDS the matter for further
administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
is currently 58 years old, has a 10th grade education, and
has worked as a meter reader, meter technician, and janitor.
Dkt. 7, Admin. Record (“AR”) 57, 62, 68, 157. On
July 13, 2015, Plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging
disability as of May 15, 2014. AR 62, 144-45. Plaintiff's
applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR
61-81. The ALJ conducted a hearing on July 6, 2017, at which
Plaintiff and a vocational expert testified. AR 34- 60. On
February 22, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled. AR 15-28.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
the five-step disability evaluation process, 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520, the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since May 15, 2014, the alleged
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: Cervical degenerative disc disease and
Step three: These impairments do not meet or
medically equal the requirements of a listed
Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”): Plaintiff can perform light
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), with
additional limitations. She can lift and/or carry 20 pounds
occasionally, and 10 pounds frequently. She can occasionally
crawl, and climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. She must
avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants and
hazards. She can occasionally push and pull with the left
lower extremity, such as for the operation of foot pedals.
Step four: Plaintiff is capable of
performing past relevant work as a meter reader. This work
does not require the performance of work-related activities
precluded by the Plaintiff's RFC. Plaintiff is therefore
Step five: The ALJ did not reach step five.
15-28. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's
final decision. AR 1-3.
Court may set aside the Commissioner's denial of Social
Security benefits only if the ALJ's decision is based on
legal error or not supported by substantial evidence in the
record as a whole. Trevizo v. Berryhill, 871 F.3d
664, 674 (9th Cir. 2017). Each of an ALJ's findings must
be supported by substantial evidence. Reddick v.
Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 721 (9th Cir. 1998).
“Substantial evidence” is more than a scintilla,
less than a preponderance, and is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971); Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th
Cir. 1989). The ALJ is responsible for evaluating evidence,
resolving conflicts in medical testimony, and resolving any
other ambiguities that might exist. Andrews v.
Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 1995). While the
Court is required to examine the record as a whole, it may
neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute its judgment for
that of the ALJ. Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d 947,
954, 957 (9th Cir. 2002). When the evidence is susceptible to
more than one interpretation, the ALJ's interpretation
must be upheld if rational. Burch v. Barnhart, 400
F.3d 676, 680-81 (9th Cir. 2005). This Court “may not
reverse an ALJ's decision on account of an error that is
harmless.” Molina v. Astrue, 674 F.3d 1104,
1111 (9th Cir. 2012).