United States District Court, D. Oregon
JEFFREY P. PHELPS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. RUSSO United States Magistrate Judge
Jeffrey Phelps brings this action for judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his application for
Title II Disability Insurance Benefits. All parties have
consented to allow a Magistrate Judge enter final orders and
judgment in this case in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and
28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the
Commissioner's decision is reversed and this case
remanded for the immediate payment of benefits.
1965, plaintiff alleges disability beginning March 9, 2012,
due to fibromyalgia, hemochromatosis, hypertension, and back,
neck, and shoulder problems. Tr. 65-69, 177,
198.On July 8, 2015, the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) issued a decision finding plaintiff
not disabled. Tr. 45-53. After the Appeals Council denied his
request for review, plaintiff filed a complaint in this
Court. Tr. 1-6.
one, the ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date. Tr. 47. At
step two, the ALJ determined the following impairments were
medically determinable and severe: “degenerative disc
disease of the spine, degenerative joint disease of the
shoulders, obesity, and fibromyalgia.” Id. At
step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments,
either singly or in combination, did not meet or equal the
requirements of a listed impairment. Tr. 48.
next resolved plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work except:
He is further limited to no climbing of ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds, no crawling, occasional climbing of ramps and
stairs, stooping, crouching, kneeling, occasional overhead
reaching, frequent reaching in other directions, and frequent
fingering and handling.
four, the ALJ concluded plaintiff could perform his past
relevant work as a project administrative coordinator. Tr.
argues the ALJ erred by: (1) discrediting his subjective
symptom testimony; (2) failing “to mention, or assign
weight to the medical opinions of treating physicians David
C. Koon, M.D., Daniel Sager, M.D., and Ira Weintraub,
M.D.”; and (3) rejecting the lay medical opinion of
nurse practitioner Mary Kathryn Thompson. Pl.'s Opening
Br. 4-5 (doc. 12). The Commissioner concedes harmful legal
error in regard to all issues raised by plaintiff. Def.'s
Resp. Br. 3 (doc. 20). As such, the sole issue on review is
the proper legal remedy.
contends his subjective symptom statements should be credited
as true and that this case should be remanded for the
immediate payment of benefits given the vocational
expert's (“VE”) testimony. Pl.'s Opening
Br. 34-35 (doc. 12). Conversely, the Commissioner asserts
further proceedings are warranted because the medical record
is ambiguous, the ALJ did not reach step five, and,
“[e]ven if the Court credited the relevant medical
evidence, there still is the slightest uncertainty of
disability.” Def.'s Resp. Br. 4-6 (doc. 20).
decision whether to remand for further proceedings or for the
immediate payment of benefits lies within the discretion of
the court. Treichler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
Admin.,775 F.3d 1090, 1101-02 (9th Cir. 2014).
Nevertheless, a remand for an award of benefits is generally
appropriate when: (1) the ALJ failed to provide legally
sufficient reasons for rejecting evidence; (2) the record has
been fully developed, there are no outstanding issues that
must be resolved, and further administrative proceedings
would not be useful; and (3) after crediting the relevant
evidence, “the record, taken as a whole, leaves not the
slightest uncertainty” concerning ...