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Julie J. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

December 10, 2019

JULIE J., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION AND REMANDING FOR FUTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

          Marsha J. Pechman United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff seeks review of the denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred by rejecting a treating provider's opinion and, in the alternative, the case must be remanded for consideration of new evidence. Dkt. 10. Because the ALJ erred by discounting the medical opinion at issue, 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).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is currently 55 years old, has a high school education, and has worked as a receptionist and a metal finisher. Dkt. 8, Admin. Record (AR) 31. Plaintiff applied for benefits in April 2015, alleging disability as of April 1, 2015. AR 312. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 311, 325. After the ALJ conducted a hearing in September 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. AR 267-310, 16-33.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Plaintiff's date last insured was June 30, 2017. AR 18. Using the five-step disability evaluation process set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520, the ALJ found that for the relevant period from the April 2015 alleged onset date through the June 2017 date last insured:

Step one: Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity.
Step two: Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia, disorder of the gastrointestinal system, affective disorder, and anxiety disorder.
Step three: These impairments did not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment under 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff could perform light work, lifting 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. She could sit and stand/walk for six hours per day each. She could occasionally climb ramps/stairs, balance, stoop, bend, squat, kneel, and crouch, but never crawl or climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She was limited to occasional exposure to pulmonary irritants. She needed to avoid concentrated exposure to hazards or heavy vibrations. She was able to perform the basic mental demands of competitive, unskilled work, including understanding, carrying out, and remembering simple instructions; responding appropriately to supervision, coworkers, and usual work situations; and dealing with changes in a routine work setting. She could have superficial and infrequent interactions with supervisors, coworkers, and the general public.
Step four: Plaintiff could not perform past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could have performed, Plaintiff was not disabled.

AR 18-33. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. AR 1-4.

         Plaintiff filed a new application for Supplemental Security Income in February 2018, alleging onset in May 2015. AR 229. The Commissioner determined that she was restricted to sedentary work and, based on her age, education, and work history, the Medical-Vocational Guidelines mandated a finding of disability. AR 241 (citing 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, ...


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