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Mabie v. Colvin

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

May 26, 2015

RICHARD B. MABIE. JR, Plaintiff,


JAMES L. ROBART United States District Judge


This matter comes before the court on the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of United States Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue (R&R (Dkt. # 15)), the objections of Plaintiff Richard B. Mabie, Jr. to the R&R (Obj. (Dkt. # 16), and the response of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) to Mr. Mabie’s objections (Resp. (Dkt. # 17)). The court has carefully reviewed the foregoing, all other relevant documents, and the governing law. Being fully advised, the court ADOPTS the R&R (Dkt. # 15), REVERSES the decision of the Commissioner, and REMANDS the case for further consideration.


Mr. Mabie applied for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) on March 1, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of September 1, 2008. (AR (Dkt. # 9) at 19, 231-32, 233-38.) Mr. Mabie asserts he is disabled due to mental health impairments including Asperger’s Syndrom, obsessive compulsive disorder (“OCD”), panic disorder with agoraphobia, and depression. (Id. at 37.) He also reported problems with lower back pain and hypertension. (Id. at 292.)

The Commissioner denied Mr. Mabie’s claim initially and on reconsideration. (Id. at 139-46, 149-50, 151-54.) Mr. Mabie requested a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which took place on June 27, 2012. (Id. at 37.) On September 28 2012, the ALJ issued a decision ruling that Mr. Mabie was not disabled and denying benefits based on the finding that Mr. Mabie could perform his past relevant work as an elevator mechanic apprentice, elevator mechanic, maintenance building repair, elevator repair helper, truck driver (light), maintenance supervisor amusement park/ride assembly, and appliance repairer. (Id. at 28.) Mr. Mabie’s request for review by the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) Appeals Council was denied (id. at 1-6), rendering the ALJ’s decision the “final decision” of the Commissioner as that term is defined in 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

On May 21, 2014, Mr. Mabie timely filed the present action challenging the Commissioner’s decision. (Compl. (Dkt. # 3).) The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue. (Min. Ord. (Dkt. # 6).) Magistrate Judge Donohue issued an R&R, which recommended reversing the decision of the Commissioner and remanding to the matter to the SSA for further proceedings. (R&R at 29.) Magistrate Judge Donohue found that the ALJ erred in his evaluation of the opinions of examining physicians Dr. Margaret Cunningham (id. at 11-16) and Dr. Steven Johnson (id. at 16-19), and non-examining state agency psychologist Dr. Edward Beatty (id. at 22-25). Magistrate Judge Donohue also found that the ALJ erred in finding Mr. Mabie not credible and in his evaluation of Mr. Mabie’s mother’s lay witness statement. (Id. at 25-29.) However, Magistrate Judge Donohue found that the ALJ did not err in his evaluation of non-examining state agency consultant Dr. Leslie Postovit (id. at 8-11) and examining psychologist Dr. David M. Barrett (id. at 19-22). Finally, Magistrate Judge Donohue recommended that the case be reversed and remanded to the Commissioner for further proceedings. (Id. at 29.)

The Commissioner did not file any objections to the R&R. (See generally Dkt.) Mr. Mabie, however, filed two objections. (See generally Obj.) First, he objected to Magistrate Judge Donohue’s recommendation affirming the ALJ’s finding regarding Dr. Barrett. (Id. at 2, 3-6.) Mr. Mabie also objected to Magistrate Judge Donohue’s recommendation that the case be remanded for further proceedings. (Id. at 2, 6-8.) Instead, Mr. Mabie argues that the matter should be reversed and remanded for a calculation and award of benefits under the “credit-as-true standard” set forth in Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1019 (9th Cir. 2014). The Commissioner filed a response urging the court to reject both of Mr. Mabie’s objections. (See generally Resp.)


A. Standard of Review

A district court has jurisdiction to review a Magistrate Judge’s R&R on dispositive matters. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). “The district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge’s disposition that has been properly objected to.” Id. “A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R to which specific written objection is made. United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc). “The statute makes it clear that the district judge must review the magistrate judge’s findings and recommendations de novo if objection is made, but not otherwise.” Id.

B. Dr. Barrett

Dr. Barrett performed a consultative examination of Mr. Mabie at the SSA’s request. (See AR at 446-49.) Dr. Barrett concluded that Mr. Mabie has Asperger’s Disorder, problems with extreme anxiety, and depression. (Id. at 449.) Dr. Barrett opined that Mr. Mabie has never been “very functional and has been unsuccessful in school and on multiple jobs because of his symptoms.” (Id.) He stated “it is unclear how all his symptoms interact to make him so dysfunctional, but at present he is homeless, very anxious, agoraphobic, depressed and overwhelmed by obsessions and compulsions.” (Id.)

The ALJ stated that he did not find Dr. Barrett’s comments to be persuasive.[1] (Id. at 26.) The ALJ concluded that Dr. Barrett failed to “clarify the degree of functioning following [his] conclusory statement” that Mr. Mabie “has never been very functional.” (Id.) The ALJ also ...

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