United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT
J. RICHARD CREATURA UNITED STATES 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. 12, 19, 20).
After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred in failing to include in her residual functional capacity (“RFC”) finding all of the limitations assessed by Kathleen M. Smith, ARNP. 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, MONIQUE TERRY, was born in 1973 and was 34 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of July 21, 2008 (see AR. 289-92, 293-95). Plaintiff has a high school education (see AR. 63-64). Plaintiff had a housecleaning business but stopped when it was making her back worse (AR. 55-56). Plaintiff’s last employment was babysitting her nephew, but she stopped after four or five months because it was too physical (AR. 54-55).
According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of “degenerative disc disease and degenerative joint disease, mild right carpal tunnel syndrome, and an anxiety disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))” (AR. 20).
At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in a house with two of her three children (AR. 57, 59-60).
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. 125-28, 129-32, 134-35, 136-37). Plaintiff’s requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Laura Valente (“the ALJ”) on March 2, 2011 (see AR. 46-91). On March 31, 2011, the ALJ issued a written decision in which the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act (see AR. 99-120). The Appeals Council sent the matter back to the ALJ for further consideration (AR. 121-24) and a second hearing was held on May 7, 2013 (AR. 35-45). On June 28, 2013, the ALJ issued a second written decision in which she concluded that plaintiff was not disabled (see AR. 14-34).
In plaintiff’s Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether or not the ALJ’s weighing of the opinion evidence from plaintiff’s treating and examining sources and the opinion of the non-examining source, regarding her physical impairments, was based on the correct legal standard and was supported by the evidence in the record; and (2) Whether or not the ALJ’s reasoning in finding that plaintiff was not fully credible was clear and convincing and supported by substantial evidence in the record (see Dkt. 12, p. 1). Because this Court reverses and remands the case based on issue 1, the Court need not further review issue 2 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 ...