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 applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) after a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ). Having considered the ALJ's decision,
administrative record (AR), and all memoranda, this matter is
REMANDED for an award of benefits.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on XXXX, 1979. She obtained her GED and previously
worked as a machine packager, fruit farm worker II,
industrial cleaner, material handler, yarn winder, boat
patcher, fast food worker, amusement park worker, cleaner
housekeeper, and sales representative. (AR 53, 976-77.)
filed DIB and SSI applications in June 2012, alleging
disability beginning April 24, 2012. (AR 223, 231.) The
applications were denied initially and on reconsideration.
9, 2014, ALJ Larry Kennedy held a hearing, taking testimony
from plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE). (AR 47-90.) On
September 25, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding
plaintiff not disabled. (AR 22-39.) Plaintiff timely
appealed. The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request
for review on February 23, 2016 (AR 1-6), making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
Plaintiff appealed this final decision to the district court
for the Eastern District of Washington.
March 29, 2017, the district court issued a decision
remanding this matter for further proceedings, including
reassessment of plaintiff's symptom testimony and medical
opinion evidence. (AR 1607-27.) The Appeals Council remanded
the decision to the ALJ for further proceedings consistent
with the order of the Court and for a new decision on
consolidated claims, including later-filed DIB and SSI
applications. (AR 1630.)
held a second hearing on October 26, 2018, taking testimony
from plaintiff and a VE. (AR 1450-97.) In a decision dated
February 5, 2019, the ALJ again found plaintiff not disabled.
(AR 955-78.) Plaintiff thereafter appealed the case directly
to this Court.
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 evidence of earnings in
2013 and plaintiff's testimony of performing temporary
jobs as a housekeeper and flagger, but found this work did
not amount to substantial gainful activity. At step two, it
must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe
impairment. The ALJ found the following impairments severe:
obesity; status-post gastric bypass surgery, with residual
complications of anemia; degenerative changes of the lumbar
spine vs. sacroiliac (SI) joint impairment, status-post
fusion; hiatal hernia; right shoulder impairment; urinary
frequency/incontinence; bipolar disorder; post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD); generalized anxiety disorder;
personality disorder; and substance use disorder. 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 has
demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The
ALJ found plaintiff able to perform light work, with the
following non-exertional limitations: frequently reach;
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch; never climb
or crawl; avoid concentrated exposure to vibrations, heights,
and hazards; perform simple, routine tasks and follow short,
simple instructions; work that needs little or no judgment
and simple duties that can be learned on-the-job in a short
period; work environment with minimal supervisor contact
(minimal does not preclude all contact and means contact that
does not occur regularly; minimal also does not preclude
simple and superficial exchanges or being in proximity to
supervisors); can work in proximity to co-workers, but not in
a cooperative or team effort; no more than superficial
interactions with co-workers; work environment that is
predictable and with few work setting changes; and no public
contact. With that RFC, the ALJ found plaintiff unable to
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 assistance of the VE, the ALJ found plaintiff ...