United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
TRAVIS L. PETERSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
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 Dkt. Nos. 19, 22, 23).
After considering and reviewing the record, the Court finds that the ALJ erred in her evaluation of the medical evidence by failing to offer specific and legitimate reasons supported by substantial evidence to reject the opinions of three examining psychologists who concluded that plaintiff had limitations work related functioning-including the ability to perform routine tasks and the ability to withstand pressures in a normal work setting-that would preclude employment.
Plaintiff, TRAVIS L. PETERSON, was born in 1971 and was 37 years old on the alleged date of disability onset, April 1, 2008 ( see Tr. 48-49, 51). Plaintiff was in special education classes through sixth grade and later obtained his GED with accommodations (Tr. 63-65). He has work experience as a log truck driver and a backhoe/forklift operator (Tr. 69-72). Plaintiff last worked in housekeeping at a casino, but quit because it was "very frustrating" (Tr. 66).
At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with two roommates in a house (Tr. 51).
Plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "substance abuse and mood disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (Tr. 28).
On September 2, 2008, plaintiff filed concurrent applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") 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 (Tr. 195-99). These applications were denied (Tr. 119-20). On April 28, 2009, plaintiff again filed applications for DIB and SSI benefits ( see Tr. 200-02, 203-06). These applications were denied initially and on reconsideration (Tr. 119-22). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Laura Valente ("the ALJ") on March 1, 2011 ( see Tr. 44-118). On April 13, 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.22-43).
On November 28, 2012, 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. 3-8). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the ALJ's written decision on February 5, 2013 ( see Dkt. Nos. 1, 3). Defendant filed the sealed administrative record regarding this matter ("Tr.") on July 18, 2013 ( see Dkt. Nos. 14, 15).
In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether the ALJ properly evaluated the medical evidence; (2) Whether the ALJ properly evaluated plaintiff's testimony; (3) Whether the ALJ properly evaluated the lay evidence; (4) Whether the ALJ properly assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity; and (5) Whether the ALJ erred by basing her step four and step five findings on a residual functional capacity assessment that did not include all of plaintiff's limitations ( see Dkt. No. 19, 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 ...