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Lester v. Colvin

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

May 16, 2014

MALCOLM VINCENT LESTER, 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. 5; Consent to Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge, ECF No. 6). This matter has been fully briefed ( see ECF Nos. 18, 27, 28).

After considering and reviewing the record, the Court finds that the ALJ failed to evaluate properly plaintiff's allegations and credibility. Plaintiff alleges that he does not get along well with authority figures and that his bipolar disorder keeps him from working, as he consistently has problems interacting with coworkers and supervisors at work, is argumentative, and often has started fights and hit coworkers ( see Tr. 21, 23). The ALJ failed to credit fully plaintiff's testimony by finding that his allegations are inconsistent with his activities of daily living, such as living with his girlfriend and helping parent her two children, preparing meals, cleaning, doing laundry, mowing, household repairs, walking, driving a car, riding a bicycle and shopping in stores. However, plaintiff's daily activities are not inconsistent with plaintiff's allegations of disabling argumentative mood and social difficulties with coworkers and supervisors.

Therefore, the ALJ's credibility determination is improper and this matter is reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further administrative proceedings.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, MALCOLM LESTER, was born in 1971 and was 37 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of October 30, 2008 ( see Tr. 128, 132). Plaintiff has only limited education but is able to communicate in English (see Tr. 27). He has past relevant work as an antenna installer, parts salesman and well driller trainer/construction worker ( see id. ).

The ALJ found that plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar neuropathy, bipolar disorder, a generalized anxiety disorder and a personality disorder (CFR 404.152(c) and 416.920(c))" (Tr. 20). At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with a female roommate and two children (Tr. 40).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On July 23, 2009, 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. 18, 128-131, 132-138)). The applications were denied initially and following reconsideration (Tr. 70-77, 78-86). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Dan R. Hyatt ("the ALJ") on October 13, 2011 ( see Tr. 33-57). On October 28, 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.15-32).

On May 22, 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. 1-4). 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 Nos. 1, 3). Defendant filed the sealed administrative record regarding this matter ("Tr.") on August 19, 2013 ( see ECF Nos. 12, 13, 14).

In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Did the ALJ err by failing to evaluate the record as a whole and give proper weight to medical evidence in the record; and (2) Did the ALJ err by not finding the plaintiff credible pursuant to SSR 96-7 ( see ECF No. 18, pp. 1-2). The Court will address these issues in reverse order.

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. ...


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