United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
JOHN G. A., III, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge
filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for
judicial review of Defendant's denial of her applications
for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”). Pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73
and Local Rule MJR 13, the parties have consented to have
this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge.
See Dkt. 2.
parties agree the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) committed reversible error. Further, the
Court finds there are outstanding issues that must be
resolved regarding Plaintiff's ability to perform his
past relevant work and other jobs in the national economy.
Accordingly, this matter is reversed and remanded pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Commissioner
of Social Security (“Commissioner”).
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
January 13, 2015, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and
SSI, alleging disability beginning June 4, 2013. See
Dkt. 10, Administrative Record (“AR”) 17. The
applications were denied on initial administrative review and
reconsideration. See AR 17. A hearing was held
before ALJ S. Andrew Grace on April 6, 2017. See AR
73-105. A supplemental hearing was held before the ALJ on
February 1, 2018. See AR 39-72. In a decision dated
March 14, 2018, the ALJ determined Plaintiff became disabled
on January 13, 2015; however, he found Plaintiff was not
disabled prior to this date. AR 17-30. Plaintiff's
request for review of the ALJ's decision was denied by
the Appeals Council, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. See AR 1-5; 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.981, § 416.1481.
Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ erred by: (1)
improperly considering Plaintiff's past relevant work and
improperly applying the grids; and (2) improperly evaluating
Plaintiff's testimony. Dkt. 12, p. 1. Plaintiff requests
the Court remand this case for an award of benefits.
Id. at p. 18.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits if the
ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not supported
by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Bayliss
v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005)
(citing Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th
and Defendant agree the ALJ committed reversible error. Dkt.
12, 19, 20. Plaintiff argues the case should be remanded for
payment of benefits, while Defendant asserts the case should
be remanded for further administrative proceedings.
See Dkt. 12, 19, 20.
Court may remand a case “either for additional evidence
and findings or to award benefits.” Smolen v.
Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1292 (9th Cir. 1996). Generally,
when the Court reverses an ALJ's decision, “the
proper course, except in rare circumstances, is to remand to
the agency for additional investigation or
explanation.” Benecke v. Barnhart, 379 F.3d
587, 595 (9th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). However, the
Ninth Circuit created a “test for determining when
evidence should be credited and an immediate award of
benefits directed[.]” Harman v. Apfel, 211
F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 2000). Specifically, under this
“credit-as-true” test, benefits should be awarded
(1) the ALJ has failed to provide legally sufficient reasons
for rejecting [the claimant's] evidence, (2) there are no
outstanding issues that must be resolved before a
determination of disability can be made, and (3) it is clear
from the record that the ALJ would be required to find the
claimant disabled were such evidence credited.
Smolen, 80 F.3d 1273 at 1292; McCartey v.
Massanari, 298 F.3d 1072, 1076-77 (9th Cir. 2002).
ALJ's errors are relevant, however, only to the extent
they impact the underlying question of the Plaintiff's
disability. Strauss v. Commissioner of the Social Sec.
Admin., 635 F.3d 1135, 1138 (9th Cir. 2011). “A
claimant is not entitled to benefits under the statute unless
the claimant is, in fact, disabled, no matter how egregious
the ALJ's errors may be.” Id. (citing
Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345,
357 (7th Cir. 2005)). Therefore, even if the
“credit-as-true” conditions are satisfied, a
court should nonetheless remand the case if “an
evaluation of the record as a whole creates serious ...