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Balcom v. Colvin

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

March 23, 2015

JOHN J. BALCOM, 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. 13, 14, 15).

After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that although the ALJ gave great weight to the opinion from an examining doctor, he failed to explain why the examining doctor's opinion that plaintiff was limited to simple and repetitive tasks was not accommodated into plaintiff's residual functional capacity.

Because this error is not harmless, this matter is reversed pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and remanded to the Acting Commissioner for further consideration consistent with this order.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, JOHN J. BALCOM, was born in 1965 and was 43 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of May 1, 2009 ( see AR. 275-82, 282-88). Plaintiff has completed one year of college (AR. 52). He has work experience as a catering chef, chef, and laborer (AR. 389-96). Plaintiff last worked "throwing freight" in a grocery store, but when he received a note from his doctor that he could lift no more than ten pounds, he was terminated (AR. 44).

According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "Cervical Spine degenerative disc disease status post C6-7 fusion (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (AR. 17).

At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in his trailer on his parents' property (AR. 42).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On August 1, 2011, plaintiff filed 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 (AR. 275-81, 282-88). The applications were denied initially and following reconsideration ( see AR. 108-20, 121-33, 145-59, 160-74). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Robert P. Kingsley ("the ALJ") on February 5, 2013 ( see AR. 36-75). 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. 12-35).

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 assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity; and (4) Whether or not the ALJ erred by basing his step five finding on a residual functional capacity assessment that did not include all of plaintiff's limitations ( see Dkt. 13, 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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