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Headley v. Colvin

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

September 9, 2014

LEANNE M. HEADLEY, 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, Dkt. No. 5; Consent to Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. No. 6). This matter has been fully briefed ( see Dkt. Nos. 14, 15, 16).

After considering and reviewing the record, the Court finds that the ALJ failed to provide a legally sufficient reason for rejecting the opinion of consultative examining physician James P. Pepka, DO, that plaintiff was not capable of working on a full-time basis.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, LEANNE M. HEADLEY, was born in 1965, and was 45 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of May 26, 2010 ( see Tr. 206-07, 208-10). Plaintiff graduated from high school (Tr. 43). She has work experience as a daycare provider, licensed real estate agent, apartment manager, and receptionist (Tr. 229-40). Plaintiff was last employed as a medical receptionist (Tr. 44-45). This job ended when she was no longer physically capable of doing what was expected of her ( see Tr. 44-45, 310).

According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "scoliosis and degenerative disc disease (20 CFR 404.1571 et. seq., and 416.971 et seq. )" (Tr. 20).

At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in a home with her husband, adult son, and her son's fiance (Tr. 41)

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. 80-99, 89-97, 104-13, 114-23). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Rebekah Ross ("the ALJ") on May 2, 2012 ( see Tr. 36-79). On May 18, 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. 15-35).

In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether or not the ALJ properly evaluated the medical evidence; (2) Whether or not the ALJ properly evaluated plaintiff's testimony; (3) Whether or not the ALJ properly evaluated the lay evidence; (4) Whether or not the ALJ properly assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity; and (5) Whether or not the ALJ erred by basing the step five finding on vocational testimony made in response to a hypothetical that did not include all of plaintiff's limitations, and that was inconsistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) ( see Dkt. No. 14, pp. 2-3).

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 properly evaluated the ...


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