United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
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. 7). This matter has been fully briefed ( see Dkt. 19, 24, 25).
After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred in failing to include in his residual functional capacity ("RFC") finding all of the severe limitations assessed by Dr. Daniel Neims, Psy.D. Because the RFC should have included additional limitations, and because these additional limitations affected the ultimate disability determination, the error is not harmless.
Therefore, this matter is reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Acting Commissioner for further consideration.
Plaintiff, JASON SRAIL, was born in 1962 and was 49 years old on the amended alleged date of disability onset of January 1, 2012 ( see AR. 15, 101-02, 809-14, 842). Plaintiff has a Bachelor's Degree in Health Care Administration (AR. 847). Plaintiff has work experience as a dietary assistant, patient care technician, and health care coordinator. He also worked at a guest ranch (AR. 847-49).
According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "degenerative disc disease, early arthritis of the right hip, chondromalacia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), major depression with personality traits, anxiety disorder, alcohol dependence in remission as of July, 2012 (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (AR 17).
At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in a homeless shelter for men (AR. 846).
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. 33-45, 46-60). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Stephanie Martz ("the ALJ") on May 7, 2013 ( see AR. 839-80). On June 27, 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. 12-32).
In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Did the ALJ give specific and legitimate reasons for rejecting the limitations assessed by Dr. Daniel Neims, Psy.D.; (2) Did the ALJ err by relying on the opinions of the non-examining sources who reviewed plaintiff's record in September of 2011 and April of 2012 while ignoring the opinion from July of 2012; (3) Did the ALJ give legally sufficient reasons for rejecting the limitations in standing and walking assessed by non-examining sources, Dr. Hector Reyes, M.D., and Dr. Lynn Staker, M.D.; and (4) Did the ALJ err in giving weight to the opinion of Dr. Gary Lenza, M.D. ( see Dkt. 19). Because this Court reverses and remands the case based on issue 1, the Court need not further review issues 2, 3, and 4, and expects the ALJ to reevaluate 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 Cir. ...