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Eden v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 31, 2018

JESSICA A. EDEN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


          Michael J. McShane United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jessica Eden brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The Court has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). Because the Commissioner's decision is not based on substantial evidence, this Court orders the Commissioner's decision reversed. Because the record has been fully developed and the record, taken as a whole, leaves no doubt that the claimant would be disabled if the relevant evidence were found credible, the case is remanded for immediate award for benefits.


         I. Procedural history

         Ms. Eden filed for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income, alleging disability as of November 11, 2012. Tr. 164-166; 167-172. Denied initially and on reconsideration, Ms. Eden requested a hearing. Tr. 112-126. After a hearing on October 22, 2015, the ALJ issue a decision on November 6, 2015 denying the claim. Tr. 17-35. Appeals Council denied review making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the agency. Tr. 2-7.

         II. ALJ's decision

         At step one, the ALJ found that Ms. Eden has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 11, 2012. Tr. 22. At step two, the ALJ found the claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with radiculopathy, L5-S1 lumbar spondylosis, and foraminal stenosis; lumbar post-laminectomy syndrome; dyspnea, NOS with bronchitis; and obesity. Tr. 22.

         At step three, the ALJ found that the claimant 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, app. 1. Tr. 24.

         At step four, the ALJ found Ms. Eden to have the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work, lifting ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently. Tr. 24. She can, in an eight-hour day, sit for six hours, stand for two hours, walk for two hours, but needs the option to stand for 10 minutes each hour while remaining on task. Tr. 24. She can perform simple, routine tasks, which require only simple work-related decisions. Tr. 25. At step five, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Eden is unable to perform any past work, but retains the ability to work as a clerical checker, an officer helper, or an inspector (photofinishing). Tr. 28-29.

         III. Current posture of the issues

         Ms. Eden contends that the ALJ's decision is not based on substantial evidence as required by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Specifically, Ms. Eden assigns err to: (1) the ALJ's failure to give clear and convincing reasons for rejecting Plaintiff's testimony, (2) the ALJ's consideration of claimant's treating neurosurgeon and treating physician's assistant, and (3) the ALJ's failure to meet the burden to prove that Plaintiff retains the ability to perform “other work” in the national economy. Pl.'s Br. 1-2, ECF No. 19.

         The Commissioner, in Defendant's brief, concedes that the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence and further concedes the ALJ erred in (1) evaluating the opinion of Mark Wells, P.A.-C; (2) in not weighing the opinions of treating physician Carmina Angeles, M.D.; and (3) in discounting Plaintiff's subjective testimony. Def's Br. 1-2, ECF No. 23; see Pl.'s Br. at 9-16. The Commissioner requests that this Court remand for further proceedings, and not for an award of benefits. Def.'s Br. 1-2. Defendant argues the record does not unambiguously establish that Plaintiff is disabled, and that the ALJ should be afforded the opportunity to resolve outstanding evidentiary conflicts and to further develop the record. Id.

         When the ALJ's final decision is not supported by substantial evidence, the reviewing court has the discretion to reverse and remand either for further proceedings or for an award of disability benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Holohan v. Massanari, 246 F.3d 1195, 1210 (9th Cir. 2001). This discretion is constrained in that the Social Security Act authorizes payment of benefits only for individuals “under a disability.” 42 U.S.C. § 423a(1)(E).

         In Treichler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., the Ninth Circuit held it may be permissible for a court to make a ...

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