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Ball v. Colvin

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

February 10, 2015

SAMANTHA DIANE BALL, 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. 3; Consent to Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 4). This matter has been fully briefed ( see Dkt. 10, 11, 12).

After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred in giving little weight to the opinion of examining psychologist Dr. Christmas Covell, Ph.D. because the ALJ incorrectly determined that Dr. Covell's opinion was based largely on plaintiff's self-reports. Further, the ALJ erred by failing to discuss significant, probative evidence from Dr. Covell regarding her opinion that plaintiff had limitations in her in ability to adapt to changes and in her ability to work with co-workers and the general public. Had the ALJ credited fully the opinion of Dr. Covell, the RFC would have included additional limitations, thus the error is not harmless.

Therefore, this matter must be reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Acting Commissioner for further consideration.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, SAMANTHA DIANE BALL, was born in 1983 and was 27 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of December 31, 2010 ( see AR. 183-89, 190-91). Plaintiff graduated from high school and has some college credits (AR. 37). Plaintiff has work experience as a retail sales clerk, fast food worker, caregiver, and production worker ( see AR. 224). Plaintiff was last employed as a caregiver and she stopped working because she could not fulfill the work requirements (AR. 38).

According to the ALJ, plaintiff has the severe impairments of "fibromyalgia, anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, migraine headaches, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, opioid dependence, and cannabis abuse (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (AR. 13).

At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in a house with her three children (AR. 35, 36).

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. 61-72, 73-84, 87-100, 101-14). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Cynthia D. Rosa ("the ALJ") on March 8, 2013 ( see AR. 29-58). On May 17, 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. 8-28).

In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether the ALJ erred in rejecting the medical opinions of Dr. Christmas Covell, Ph.D.; and (2) Whether the error was harmless ( see Opening Brief, Dkt. 10, 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. ...


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