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Johnson v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

August 8, 2014

LAVELLE JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.

Bruce W. BREWER, Law Offices of Bruce W. Brewer, PC, West Linn, OR, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

S. AMANDA MARSHALL, United States Attorney, ADRIAN L. BROWN, Assistant United States Attorney, Portland, OR, DAVID MORADO, Regional Chief Counsel, JORDAN D. GODDARD, Special Assistant United States Attorneys, Social Security Administration, Seattle, WA, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANNA J. BROWN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Lavelle Johnson seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security 7Administration (SSA) in which she denied Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments under Title XVI. This Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

Following a thorough review of the record, the Court GRANTS the Commissioner's Motion (#16) for Remand to Agency as MODIFIED; REVERSES the decision of the Commissioner; and REMANDS this matter to the Commissioner pursuant to sentence four, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for further administrative proceedings consistent with this Opinion and Order.

ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

Plaintiff filed his application for SSI in February 2010. Tr. 17, 162-66.[2] His application was denied initially and on reconsideration. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing on February 14, 2012. Tr. 35. At the hearing Plaintiff was represented by an attorney. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) testified at the hearing. Tr. 35.

The ALJ issued a decision on April 13, 2012, in which she found Plaintiff is not entitled to benefits. Tr. 29. That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on June 19, 2013, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 1.

Plaintiff filed a Complaint for Judicial Review Under the Social Security Act on August 15, 2013, and filed his Brief (#11) on March 3, 2014. On May 13, 2014, the Commissioner filed a "Responsive Brief with Motion for Remand to Agency" (#16). The Court took this matter under advisement on June 13, 2014.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on October 25, 1959, and was 52 years old at the time of the hearing. Tr. 162. Plaintiff completed tenth grade. Tr. 47. Plaintiff has prior relevant work experience as a dining-room attendant. Tr. 65.

Plaintiff alleges disability since January 1, 2008, due to "[a]rthritis in knee, hbp [(high blood pressure)], and sleep apnea." Tr. 184.

Except when noted, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. After carefully reviewing the medical records, this Court adopts the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence except where noted. See Tr. 19-29.

DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO REMAND

Plaintiff contends the ALJ erred by (1) finding at Step Three that neither Plaintiff's severe knee or spinal impairments equal a Listing, (2) improperly discrediting Plaintiff's testimony, and (3) making findings at Step Five that were inconsistent with Plaintiff's RFC.

In its Motion to Remand the Commissioner concedes the ALJ's decision contains deficiencies at Steps Three and Five. Specifically, the Commissioner concedes (1) further development of the record, including expert testimony, is necessary to resolve outstanding issues at Step Three with respect to whether Plaintiff's severe knee and spinal impairments meet or medically equal a Listing and (2) further VE testimony is necessary to clarify an inconsistency between Plaintiff's RFC and the requirements of the jobs identified by the ALJ at Step Five.

The Commissioner asserts "[t]he parties agree the ALJ erred" and "[t]he only issue before this Court is the choice of remedy - whether this case should be remanded for further proceedings or whether it should be remanded with a finding of a period of disability and a determination that Plaintiff is eligible" for benefits. Def.'s Br. at 2.

Accordingly, the Commissioner requests the Court to reverse and to remand the case for further administrative proceedings and order the ALJ to:

1. Reconsider Plaintiff's severe impairments at Step Three with the aid ...

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