United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
J. RICHARD CREATURA, 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 (1976). This matter has been fully briefed ( see Dkt. 15, 19, 20).
After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred in giving little weight to the opinion of treating counselor Katherine Coleman, QMHP because the ALJ did not provide a germane reason for rejecting the opinion. Had the ALJ credited fully the opinion from Ms. Coleman, the RFC would have included additional limitations, and thus the error is not harmless.
Therefore, this matter should be reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Acting Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this Report and Recommendation.
Plaintiff, REBECCA DOYLE, was born in 1977 and was 32 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of May 27, 2010 ( see AR. 194-202, 203-11). Plaintiff has a bachelor's degree in Human Development (AR. 43). Plaintiff has worked as a billing and eligibility specialist (healthcare), payroll and HR assistant (zoo), receptionist (builder and attorney), records office specialist (college), therapeutic foster parent, development assistant (non-profit), and in retail (AR. 258-65). Plaintiff left her last job because she was severely depressed and could not keep up with the job (AR. 50).
According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "obesity; major depressive disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (AR. 20).
At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living alone and had two young sons who were living with plaintiff's mother (AR. 39-41).
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. 70-79, 81-90, 92-103, 105-16). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Paul G. Robeck ("the ALJ") on November 15, 2012 ( see AR. 35-68). On December 11, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision in which the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act ( see AR. 15-34).
On July 15, 2014, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, making the written decision by the ALJ the final agency decision subject to judicial review (AR. 1-7). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the ALJ's written decision in September of 2014 ( see Dkt. 1, 5). Defendant filed the sealed administrative record regarding this matter ("AR.") on November 21, 2014 ( see Dkt. 13).
In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether or not the ALJ erred when he failed to address in his assessment of plaintiff's RFC his PRFT finding that plaintiff is markedly limited in concentration, persistence and pace; (2) Whether or not the ALJ improperly rejected the opinion of counselor Katherine Coleman, QMHP; and (3) Whether or not the ALJ erred failing to find that plaintiff meets or equals in severity Listing 12.04C ( see Dkt. 15, pp. 1-2). Because this Court recommends reversing and remanding based on issues 2 and 3, the Court need not further review issue 1, and would expect the ALJ to re-evaluate the record as a whole in light of the direction provided below.
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 ...