United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MICHELLE L. PETERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
seeks review of the denial of her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the administrative law
judge (“ALJ”) erred in assessing certain medical
opinions and in discounting her own testimony and that of lay
witnesses. (Dkt. # 8 at 1-2.) 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).
was born in 1969, has a college degree and additional
aviation training, and has worked as a customer service
representative and bookkeeper. AR at 361, 380-84. At the time
of the 2018 administrative hearing, Plaintiff was working as
an administrative assistant at her church. Id. at
August 2013, Plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging
disability as of January 24, 2012. AR at 308-14.
Plaintiff's application was denied initially and on
reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing.
Id. at 173-75, 180-86. After the ALJ conducted a
hearing in February 2015 (id. at 52-95), the ALJ
issued a decision finding Plaintiff disabled through January
2, 2015, but not disabled thereafter. Id. at 140-52.
Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request for review,
vacated the ALJ's partially favorable decision, and
remanded the case for a new hearing and new decision. AR at
158-61. Plaintiff subsequently entered a request to withdraw
a hearing request, intending to reinstate the ALJ's
original partially favorable decision. Id. at 243,
459-60. The ALJ granted that request and dismissed her
appeal, which resulted in the decision denying
Plaintiff's application on reconsideration remaining in
effect. Id. at 166. Plaintiff then again requested
Appeals Council review, asking for the ALJ's dismissal to
be vacated and that she be allowed to withdraw her first
request for review. Id. at 461-62. The Appeals
Council granted Plaintiff's request to vacate the
dismissal but denied her request to withdraw her first
request for review, and remanded the case for a new hearing
and new decision. Id. at 168-69.
held another hearing on April 10, 2018 (AR at 96-111), and
subsequently entered a decision finding that Plaintiff was
not disabled during any time period. Id. at 15-31.
Specifically, utilizing the five-step disability evaluation
process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since January 24, 2012, the alleged onset
Step two: Plaintiff's status post resection meningioma,
organic brain syndrome, anxiety disorder, and depressive
disorder are severe impairments.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the
requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can perform work at
all exertional levels, with the following non-exertional
limitations: she can understand, remember, and carry out
simple instructions. She can make judgments commensurate with
the functions of unskilled work (i.e., work that needs little
or no judgment to do simple duties, and work that can usually
be learned in 30 days with little specific vocational
preparation and judgment). She can respond appropriately to
supervisors and co-workers, but can have only occasional
exposure to or interaction with the general public. She can
tolerate occasional changes in the workplace.
Step four: Plaintiff cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform,