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Boltinhouse v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. California

January 12, 2015

JAMES BOLTINHOUSE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

PATRICK J. WALSH, Magistrate Judge.

This case is back before the Court following remand. In his first decision, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") determined that, though limited to jobs involving one- and two-part instructions, Plaintiff could perform his previous job as a sewing machine operator. Plaintiff appealed, noting that the ALJ had failed to include this restriction in the hypothetical question to the vocational expert and argued that the job of sewing machine operator was beyond his capabilities because it involved more than one- and two-part instructions. The Court agreed and remanded the case to the Agency with instructions to include that restriction in the hypothetical question to the vocational expert and to ask the vocational expert to explain how Plaintiff could perform a job requiring Level 2 reasoning if he was limited to jobs involving one- and two-part instructions.

On remand the same vocational expert who testified in the first hearing testified again. He started off by reconsidering his classification of Plaintiff's former job as a sewing machine operator and determined that it was more properly classified as a sports equipment repairer, which the ALJ determined Plaintiff could not do. (AR 304-05, 334.) The ALJ then posed a hypothetical question that included a restriction to jobs involving one- and two-part instructions. The vocational expert opined that there were three jobs that Plaintiff could perform despite his limitations: dishwasher, hand packager, and landscape worker. (AR 335.) For some reason, the ALJ then began discussing with the vocational expert the SVP[1] categories for these jobs and never really addressed the reasoning level associated with them. (AR 335-38.) (Though the Court would agree that there are similarities between SVP and reasoning level and obviously some overlap, they are not the same.) As a result, the vocational expert never explained how someone who is limited to one- and two-part instructions can perform a job that requires Level 2 Reasoning, as the remand order had directed him to do. For this reason, remand is required to allow the vocational expert to address this issue.

The Agency disagrees. It does not believe that remand is warranted because the vocational expert testified that Plaintiff could perform these three jobs despite his limitations and he also testified that his opinion was consistent with the DOT. (Joint Stip. at 12.) The Agency argues further that a limitation on jobs involving one- and two-part instructions does not preclude Reasoning Level 2 jobs. (Joint Stip. at 12-14.)

The Court rejects these arguments. To begin with, the Court has previously held in this case and in others that a limitation to one- and two-part instructions is commensurate with Reasoning Level 1, not Reasoning Level 2. This view is consistent with the DOT, which defines Reasoning Level 1 as the ability to "apply commonsense understanding to carry out simple one-to-two step instructions " and Reasoning Level 2 as the ability to "apply commonsense understanding to carry out detailed but uninvolved written or oral instructions." DOT, Appendix C, Components of the Definition Trailer, 1991 WL 688702 (4th ed. rev. 1991). Second, even were the Court willing to reconsider its previous holdings, the vocational expert did not provide any reason for doing so. The fact that the vocational expert explained that there is a hand packager job that involves a one-part instruction, i.e., placing shoes in a shoe box, does not establish that all hand packager jobs are limited to a single instruction or that Plaintiff is capable of performing Reasoning Level 2 jobs.

For these reasons, the case is remanded to the Agency for further proceedings. On remand, the vocational expert should determine if there are any jobs in the economy that Plaintiff can perform despite his limitation to jobs involving one- and two-part instructions. If any of those jobs require reasoning beyond Reasoning Level 1, the vocational expert should explain how a person limited to jobs involving one- and two-part instructions-which appears to be synonymous with Reasoning Level 1-can perform those jobs.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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