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Robert K. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

November 13, 2019

ROBERT K., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          Honorable Richard A. Jones, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Robert K. seeks review of the denial of his applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred in evaluating the opinions of testifying medical expert Paul Wiese, Ph.D., consulting examiner David Morgan, Ph.D., and consulting examiner Peter Weiss, Ph.D. Pl. Op. Br. (Dkt. 7) at 1. 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. § 405(g).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is 49 years old, has a sixth-grade education, and has worked as a cook. Admin. Record (“AR”) (Dkt. 5) 87, 103, 110. On July 29, 2013, Plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging disability as of June 1, 2011. AR 103. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 101-46. On June 22, 2015, ALJ Rudolph Murgo held a hearing on Plaintiff's claims. AR 39-66. ALJ Murgo issued a decision on October 6, 2015, in which he found Plaintiff not disabled. AR 150-62.

         On April 20, 2017, the Appeals Council vacated ALJ Murgo's decision and remanded the case back to the ALJ. AR 167-71.

         On remand, ALJ Murgo held a second hearing, at which he took testimony from Plaintiff, medical expert Paul Wiese, Ph.D., and vocational expert Paul Morrison. AR 67-100. On February 5, 2018, ALJ Murgo issued a decision once again finding Plaintiff not disabled. AR 15-32.

         II. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Using the five-step disability evaluation process, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920, the ALJ found:

Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 1, 2011, the alleged onset date.
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: Schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type), and bipolar II disorder.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[1]
Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”): Plaintiff can perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c), with exceptions. He can perform simple, routine tasks (at a specific vocational preparation level one or two, with a general educational development level of two or less). He can have superficial coworker contact and no public contact.
Step four: Plaintiff has no past relevant work.
Step five: There are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, so ...

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