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Eddy v. Colvin

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

March 13, 2015

GAIL LOUISE EDDY, 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. 5). This matter has been fully briefed ( see Dkt. 10, 11).

After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred in giving little weight to a portion of the opinion of examining psychologist, Dr. William Wilkinson, Ed.D., because the ALJ provided only a conclusory statement to reject the opinion. Had the ALJ credited fully the opinion of Dr. Wilkinson, the residual functional capacity would have included additional limitations and 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, GAIL LOUISE EDDY, was born in 1963 and was 45 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of August 8, 2009 ( see AR. 184-87, 188-97). Plaintiff graduated from high school, attended some college and completed a certified nursing assistant ("CNA") course (AR. 56, 218). Plaintiff has worked as a caregiver, waitress and sales clerk (AR. 36, 68, 218). Plaintiff last worked as a caregiver, but stopped working when she got sick with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("COPD") (AR. 57).

According to the ALJ, plaintiff has the severe impairments of "degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, with moderate to severe narrowing of the neural foramina at L5-S1 and lumbar neuromas; fibromyalgia; obesity; asthma; affective disorder; anxiety disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (AR. 21).

At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with friends and family (AR. 55).

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 AR. 77-83, 84-90, 91-105, 106-115). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Cynthia D. Rosa ("the ALJ") on January 18, 2013 ( see AR. 46-74). On February 22, 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. 16-42).

In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether or not the granting of little or no weight to the mental function assessments of examining psychologists Drs. Wilkinson and Langhofer is based on legally sufficient rationales; (2) Whether or not the premature opinion of a non-examining review psychologist amounts to substantial evidence sufficient to support the ALJ's residual mental functional capacity determination; and (3) Whether or not the finding that plaintiff's subjective complaints are not credible is supported by clear and convincing evidence ( see 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 ...


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