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Ashton v. Colvin

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

May 13, 2014

JAMIE K. ASHTON, Plaintiff,
v.
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 ECF Nos. 18, 22, 23).

After considering and reviewing the record, the Court finds that the ALJ properly evaluated the medical evidence, lay witness evidence, and plaintiff's credibility. The Court also finds the ALJ had no duty to further develop the record and met her burden at Step Five.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, JAMIE K. ASHTON, was born in 1978 and was 31 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of December 31, 2009 ( see Tr. 173, 180). Plaintiff did not graduate from high school but did obtain her GED. She started college, but dropped out because of health issues (Tr. 36). Plaintiff has work experience in restaurants and food services and as a parking attendant (Tr. 37-38). Plaintiff was last employed in a bakery doing food prep, customer service, and cleaning, but was terminated without being given a reason (Tr. 36). Plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "seizure disorder and fibromyalgia (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (Tr. 14).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On September 7, 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. 173-79, 180-83). The applications were denied initially and following reconsideration (Tr. 59-66, 68-75, 78-88, 90-100). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Stephanie Martz ("the ALJ") on November 22, 2011 ( see Tr. 30-58). On January 12, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision in which the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act ( see Tr.9-29).

On April 15, 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. 1-7). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the ALJ's written decision in May, 2013 ( see ECF Nos. 1, 3). Defendant filed the sealed administrative record regarding this matter ("Tr.") on July 30, 2013 ( see ECF Nos. 10, 11).

In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Did the ALJ err in improperly rejecting the opinions of plaintiff's treating medical providers as well as her own subjective complaints; (2) Did the ALJ err in failing to fully and fairly develop the record; (3) Did the ALJ err in improperly rejecting lay witness statements; and (4) Did the ALJ err in failing to meet her step five burden? ( see Dkt. No. 18, 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)).

DISCUSSION

(1) Did the ALJ err in improperly rejecting the opinions of plaintiff's treating medical providers as well as ...


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