United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
J. RICHARD CREATURA, Magistrate Judge.
This matter has been referred to United States Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creatura pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Magistrate Judge Rule MJR 4(a)(4), and as authorized by Mathews, Secretary of H.E.W. v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 271-72 (1976). This matter has been fully briefed ( see ECF Nos. 11, 12, 13).
After considering and reviewing the record, the Court finds the ALJ failed to provide clear and convincing reasons for discounting the opinions of Kristi Breen Ph.D. and Rachelle C. Langhofer, Ph.D. Plaintiff's limitations from mental impairments require further evaluation.
Therefore, this matter should be reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Acting Commissioner for further consideration.
Plaintiff, CHRISTAL LYNN HAESEL, was born in 1972 and was 37 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of July 9, 2010 ( see Tr. 20, 183, 189). Plaintiff completed college and then completed a two year degree in culinary arts (Tr. 34-35). Plaintiff has work experience as an executive chef and in retail and preschool management (Tr. 20, 35, 205).
Plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") and bipolar disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (Tr. 15).
At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in an apartment (Tr. 33).
On September 10, 2010, plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance ("DIB") benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423 (Title II) and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a) (Title XVI) of the Social Security Act ( see Tr. 183-88, 189-90). The applications were denied initially and following reconsideration (Tr. 120-28). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Rebekah Ross ("the ALJ") on September 12, 2011 ( see Tr. 27-69). On September 20, 2011, the ALJ issued a written decision in which the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act ( see Tr.10-26).
On May 2, 2013, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, making the written decision by the ALJ the final agency decision subject to judicial review (Tr. 1-6). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the ALJ's written decision in June, 2013 ( see ECF No. 1). Defendant filed the sealed administrative record regarding this matter ("Tr.") on September 4, 2013 ( see ECF Nos. 8, 9).
In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following arguments: (1) the ALJ erred in rejecting the medical opinions of Rachelle C. Langhofer, Ph.D. and Kristi Breen, Ph.D.; and (2) the ALJ's errors were not harmless ( see ECF No. 11, p. 1).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the Commissioner's denial of social security benefits if the ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Bayliss v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005) ( citing Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th Cir. 1999)). "Substantial evidence" is more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and is such "relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir. 1989) ( quoting Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323, 325-26 (9th Cir. 1989)). Regarding the question of whether or not substantial evidence supports the findings by the ALJ, the Court should "review the administrative record as a ...