United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION AND
REMANDING THE CASE FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS
C. COUGHENOUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
seeks review of the denial of his applications for
Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance
Benefits. Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred by rejecting his
testimony, his treating doctor's opinions, and his
wife's testimony. Dkt. 9. As discussed below, the Court
REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS
the case for further administrative proceedings.
is currently 55 years old, has a high school education, and
has worked as a school bus driver and stores laborer. Dkt. 7,
Admin. Record (AR) 955. Plaintiff applied for benefits in
March 2014, and alleges disability as of January 1, 2014. AR
227, 942. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially,
on reconsideration, and by a February 2016 ALJ decision. AR
225, 226, 247, 248, 143-52. On appeal to this court, based on
the parties' stipulation, the court remanded the case for
further administrative proceedings. AR 1097-99. On remand,
after the ALJ conducted a hearing in June 2018, the ALJ
issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. AR 1016,
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the January 2014 alleged
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: lumbar spine degenerative disc disease; large
intestine cancer, status-post chemotherapy; and peripheral
Step three: These impairments do not meet or
equal the requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can
perform light work, standing and/or walking for 4 hours per
day. He cannot crouch, crawl, or climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. He can occasionally climb ramps and stairs,
balance, stoop, and kneel. He must avoid concentrated cold,
vibration, and hazards. He cannot drive as part of normal job
duties. He must ambulate with a cane, with the other hand
free to use. He requires an option to alternate sitting and
standing after 30 to 60 minutes, for 3 to 5 minutes while
remaining on task.
Step four: Plaintiff cannot perform past
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform, he is not disabled.
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). “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). 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).