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William K. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 6, 2020

WILLIAM K., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DENIAL OF BENEFITS

          JAMES L. ROBART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff William K. seeks review of the denial of his application for disability insurance benefits. (See Compl. (Dkt. # 1).) Plaintiff contends the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred by (1) failing to consider Plaintiff's lumbar degenerative disc disease a severe impairment at step two, (2) discounting Plaintiff's symptom testimony, (3) discounting the opinions of functional capacities evaluator Ian Johnsen, MSPT, and (4) posing incomplete hypotheticals to the vocational expert. (Pl. Op. Br. (Dkt. # 11) at 1-2.) Plaintiff argues the court should remand this matter for an immediate award of benefits. (Id. at 2.)

         Defendant concedes the ALJ erred, but argues the appropriate remedy is to remand this matter for further administrative proceedings. (Def. Resp. Br. (Dkt. # 15) at 1.) As discussed below, the court REVERSES the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”) and REMANDS the matter for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, 20 U.S.C. § 404.1520, ALJ Glenn Myers found:

Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 23, 2014, the alleged onset date. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571-76.
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: Cerebral palsy, right eye blindness, left shoulder calcific tendinopathy, sleep disorder, depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).
Step three: Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526.
Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”): Plaintiff can perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), with exceptions. He needs a sit-stand option in the workplace. He will use a cane for walking only. He cannot perform overhead reaching with the left upper extremity. He is limited to frequent reaching at or below shoulder level. He is limited to frequent handling and fingering. He cannot drive, balance, work at heights, work in proximity to hazardous conditions, or walk on uneven surfaces. He can perform unskilled, repetitive, routine tasks in two-hour increments. He can have superficial, incidental contact with the public. He can have occasional contact with coworkers and supervisors. He will be off-task eight percent of the time, but will still meet minimum production requirements. He will be absent from work ten times per year.
Step four: Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1565.
Step five: Considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569, 404.1569(a).

(Admin. Record (“AR”) (Dkt. # 9) at 15-25.) ALJ Myers thus found that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Social Security Act (“Act”), from March 23, 2014, through the date of ALJ Myers's decision. (Id. at 25.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making ALJ Myers's decision the Commissioner's final decision. (See Id. at 1-3.)

         III. ...


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