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Betschart v. Colvin

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

August 26, 2014

FRANKIE L. BETSCHART, 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. 14, 15, 16).

After considering and reviewing the record, the Court finds that the ALJ erred in failing to evaluate the medical opinion from examining psychologist Kimberly Wheeler, Ph.D.. Because this error was not harmless, the claim should be reversed and remanded for further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Acting Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this Order.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, FRANKIE L. BETSCHART, was born in 1964 and was 45 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of May 10, 2010 ( see Tr. 196-202, 210-12). Plaintiff graduated from high school (Tr. 40). Plaintiff has past work experience as a candy maker and a stock clerk (Tr. 50, 234). Plaintiff's last employment ended because symptoms from her mental impairments increased (Tr. 41).

According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "mood disorder, not otherwise specified; posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); generalized anxiety disorder; and urinary tract disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (Tr. 19).

At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living by herself (Tr. 40).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff's applications 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 were denied initially and following reconsideration ( see Tr. 56-67, 68-79, 124-128, 129-136). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Gary Elliott ("the ALJ") on October 24. 2012 ( see Tr. 35-55). On November 8, 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.14-34).

In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether or not the ALJ provided legitimate reasons for rejecting the medical opinions of Dr. Wheeler and Dr. Barton-Haas; (2) Whether or not the ALJ provided clear and convincing reasons for finding that plaintiff's testimony was not credible; (3) Whether or not the ALJ provided any reasons germane to Elizabeth Louise Peterson for rejecting her written lay statement; and (4) Whether or not the ALJ's finding that plaintiff can work makes any sense, in light of excessive absenteeism due to her numerous medical and mental health appointments ( see ECF No. 14, p. 2).

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) Whether or not the ALJ provided legitimate reasons for rejecting the medical opinions of Dr. ...


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