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 of record, this matter is REMANDED
for further administrative proceedings.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1970. She has a high school education (AR 23,
35-36) and previously worked as a waitress, bartender,
gambling dealer, and medical assistant (AR 23).
filed an application for DIB in September 2015, alleging
disability beginning July 9, 2014. (AR 89.) The application
was denied at the initial level and on reconsideration.
November 2, 2017, ALJ Wayne N. Araki held a hearing, taking
testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert. (AR 31-73.)
On March 29, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision finding
plaintiff not disabled from July 9, 2014, through the date of
the decision. (AR 15-25.)
timely appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review on November 27, 2018 (AR 1-3), making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to
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 found plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers
from a severe impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's
degenerative disc disease, joint dysfunction, sprains and
strains and muscle/soft tissue disorder severe. Step three
asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a
listed impairment. The ALJ found that plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or equal the criteria of a listed
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 has
demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The
ALJ found plaintiff able to perform sedentary work except she
could lift and carry 10 pounds occasionally; stand and walk
for 10 to 15 minute intervals up to two hours total per day;
sit for eight hours per day total; occasionally climb ramps
and stairs but never ladders, ropes, and scaffolds;
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl;
occasionally reach overhead; and frequently finger and
handle. She could have occasional exposure to extreme cold or
vibrations; could not work at exposed heights or operating
heavy equipment; and otherwise could have occasional exposure
to hazards. With that assessment, the ALJ found plaintiff
unable to perform her 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 assistance of a VE, the ALJ found plaintiff capable of
performing other jobs, such as work as a touch up screener,
document preparer, and table worker.
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 ...