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Graham v. Colvin

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

February 2, 2015

JENNIFER LYNN GRAHAM, 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. 5; Consent to Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 6). This matter has been fully briefed ( see Dkt. 12, 16, 17).

After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ did not err in failing to discuss the opinion evidence of examining psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Irwin, M.D. because the ALJ explicitly stated that she gave Dr. Irwin's opinion great weight. Further, the ALJ's finding at step two regarding plaintiff's mental impairments was supported by substantial evidence, and any errors in the ALJ's findings regarding plaintiff's asthma and insomnia at step two are harmless as plaintiff has not demonstrated that she suffered any limitations from these two conditions. Therefore, this matter is affirmed pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, JENNIFER LYNNE GRAHAM, was born in 1968 and was 42 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of June 1, 2011 ( see AR. 189-97, 198-203). Plaintiff graduated from high school and received a CNA certificate from a vocational school (AR. 53). She last worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant but quit when she moved and when she returned, she could not get rehired (AR. 54).

According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with facet osteoarthritis at L4-5/L5-S1; disc bulge at L3-4/L4-5/L5-S1; and mild scoliosis (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (AR. 27).

At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in an RV with her boyfriend and 23-year-old son (AR. 52).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff's applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") 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 AR. 81-92, 93-104, 107-19, 120-32). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Cynthia D. Rosa ("the ALJ") on February 22, 2013 ( see AR. 47-78). On March 15, 2013, the ALJ issued a written decision in which the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act ( see AR. 22-46).

In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Did the Commissioner err in failing to properly evaluate the opinion evidence with regard to the opinion of Dr. Jennifer Irwin, M.D.; (2) Did the Commissioner err in failing to properly determine plaintiff's severe impairments with regards to her mental health, asthma and insomnia; and (3) Did the Commissioner err in determining plaintiff's residual functional capacity ( see Opening Brief, Dkt. 12, 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) Did the Commissioner err in failing to properly evaluate the opinion evidence with regard to the ...


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