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Montgomery v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

April 30, 2014

YOLANDA AGENE MONTGOMERY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

J. RICHARD CREATURA, Magistrate Judge.

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and Local Magistrate Judge Rule MJR 13 ( see also Notice of Initial Assignment to a U.S. Magistrate Judge and Consent Form, ECF No. 4; Consent to Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge, ECF No. 6). This matter has been fully briefed ( see ECF Nos. 12, 13, 14).

After considering and reviewing the record, the Court finds that the ALJ did not provide specific and legitimate reasons for failing to credit fully a medical source opinion by concluding that the opinion is not supported by "the complete range of the objective medical evidence." Similarly, the ALJ's adoption of an opinion of a doctor about a different patient does not provide substantial support for the ALJ's RFC finding and provides an additional reason as to why the medical evidence should be evaluated anew.

Therefore, this matter is reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further administrative proceedings.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, YOLANDA MONTGOMERY, was born in 1967 and was 40 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of May 15, 2008 ( see Tr. 140-43). Plaintiff did not graduate from high school, but did get her GED. Plaintiff has past work experience as a care provider, cocktail waitress and assembly line worker (Tr. 170-81). Plaintiff last worked for a temporary service doing security work but quit when the pain in her knee became unbearable (Tr. 37).

At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with her grandmother, aunt and six-year-old niece (Tr. 38).

Plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease of the right knee, fibromyalgia, and obesity (20 CFR 416.920(c))" (Tr. 22).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On July 6, 2010, plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a) (Title XVI) of the Social Security Act ( see Tr. 140-43). The application was denied initially and following reconsideration (Tr. 58-63, 64-77). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Cynthia Rosa ("the ALJ") on September 1, 2011 ( see Tr. 32-57). On September 23, 2011, the ALJ issued a written decision in which she concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act ( see Tr. 17-31).

On May 30, 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 July, 2013 ( see ECF Nos. 1, 3). Defendant filed the sealed administrative record regarding this matter ("Tr.") on September 23, 2013 ( see ECF Nos. 9, 10).

In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether or not the ALJ improperly rejected probative medical source opinions; (2) Whether or not the ALJ failed to provide germane reasons for rejecting lay testimony; (3) Whether or not the ALJ improperly evaluated the medical evidence when assessing residual functional capacity; and (4) Whether or not the ALJ improperly assessed plaintiff's credibility ( see ECF No. 12, 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 ...


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