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McCutchen v. Colvin

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

April 23, 2015

VICTORIA L. McCUTCHEN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

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. 14, 21, 22).

After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that although both parties admit that the ALJ erred in evaluating the medical evidence in the record, an immediate award of benefits would not be warranted. Further administrative proceedings are necessary because there are outstanding issues to be resolved regarding the medical evidence, and thus in assessing plaintiff's RFC.

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.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, VICTORIA L. McCUTCHEN, was born in 1988 and was 14 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of April 5, 2003 ( see AR. 181-86, 187-90, 191-92). Plaintiff has completed some community college courses but did not complete high school, nor has she obtained her GED (AR. 37-38). Plaintiff has no past relevant work history (AR. 19, 258).

According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and personality disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (AR. 13).

At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in her motor home (AR. 34, 35).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff's applications for child's 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. 66-75, 76-85, 88-99, 100-111). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Gordon W. Griggs ("the ALJ") on December 11, 2012 ( see AR. 26-62). On December 26, 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. 8-25).

On March 24, 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. 1-6). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the ALJ's written decision on May 22, 2014 ( see Dkt. 1). Defendant filed the sealed administrative record regarding this matter ("AR.") on November 10, 2014 ( see Dkt. 8, 9).

In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether or not the ALJ properly assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"); and (2) Whether or not the ALJ provided a sufficient basis for questioning the credibility of plaintiff ( see Dkt. 14, p. 2). Defendant concedes that the ALJ erred in evaluating the medical evidence, and thus in assessing the plaintiff's RFC, and that the matter should be remanded, but disagrees with plaintiff's requested remedy of reversal for payment of benefits ( see Dkt. 21, p. 1, 2).

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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