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Randall v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

November 25, 2014

TRACEY K. RANDALL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant

Noting Date December 19, 2014.

For Tracey K Randall, Plaintiff: Eitan Kassel Yanich, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF EITAN KASSEL PLLC, OLYMPIA, WA.

For Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant: Kerry Jane Keefe, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE (SEA), SEATTLE, WA; Daphne Banay, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL, SEATTLE, WA.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

J. Richard Creatura, United States 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, 96 S.Ct. 549, 46 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976). This matter has been fully briefed ( see ECF Nos. 21, 25, 28; see also ECF Nos. 30, 31, 32).

After considering and reviewing the record, the Court finds that the administrative law judge (" ALJ") erred in evaluating the medical evidence and when assessing plaintiff's residual functional capacity (" RFC"). The ALJ failed to account for plaintiff's symptoms and side effects from medications that he takes to control his seizure disorder, both when evaluating the medical evidence and when determining plaintiff's RFC. Because a determination of plaintiff's credibility is based partly on the assessment of the medical evidence, plaintiff's credibility should be assessed anew following remand, and the lay witness evidence of Julie Wilson should be re-assessed as well. Finally, the possible conflict of interest posed by Dr. Carla van Dam's report should also be reviewed in light of the evidence presented by the plaintiff, and the medical evidence re-evaluated.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, TRACEY K. RANDALL, was born in 1977 and was 23 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of December 31, 2000 ( see Tr. 178-79, 180-83). Plaintiff completed high school and has a general studies associate's degree ( see Tr. 53). Plaintiff has work experience as a fast food worker, pizza cook, moving van driver/helper, custodian, janitor, and warehouse worker ( see Tr. 79-80, 221-35). He is currently working part-time as a pizza cook ( see Tr. 51, 53).

The ALJ found that plaintiff has the severe impairments of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (" ADHD"), bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, personality disorder, and lumbar and cervical degenerative disk disease ( see Tr. 17).

At the time of the administrative hearing, plaintiff was living with three roommates ( see Tr. 51).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income (" SSI") benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a) of the Social Security Act was denied initially and following reconsideration ( see Tr. 93-96, 102-07). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before ALJ Joanne E. Dantonio (" the ALJ") on August 3, 2011 ( see Tr. 45-88). On January 17, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision finding plaintiff not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act ( see Tr. 11-33).

On May 28, 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 ( see 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 August, 2013 ( see ECF Nos. 1, 4). Defendant filed the sealed administrative record regarding this matter (" Tr.") on January 30, 2014 ( see ECF Nos. 14, 15).

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 witness evidence; (4) Whether or not the ALJ properly assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity (" RFC"); and (5) Whether or not the ALJ erred by basing her step five finding on an RFC assessment that did not account for all of plaintiff's limitations ( see ECF No. 21, 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) Whether or not the ALJ erred in failing to include plaintiff's seizure disorder at Step 2.

The ALJ discussed plaintiff's history of seizures prior to the application date, but indicated that she found this impairment to be not severe because plaintiff's seizures were well-controlled with medication and did not cause " ...


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