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. 6). This matter has been fully briefed ( see Dkt. 15, 19, 20).
After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred in improperly discounting the lay witness testimony of David Vessey. Because the RFC should have included additional limitations from this testimony, and because these additional limitations may have 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, JACQUELINE CAMPBELL, was born in 1970 and was 36 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of May 30, 2007 ( see AR. 221-24, 225-31). Plaintiff has an Associate's Degree in nursing (AR. 52-53). Plaintiff has worked as a nurse, caregiver, guest service representative, cashier, screener/packer, and clerk (AR. 252-62, 278-85). Plaintiff's last employment was terminated when she called in sick after three days of work (AR. 57, 62).
According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of "posttraumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"); borderline personality disorder; depressive anxiety disorder; agoraphobia; and antisocial disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))" (AR. 16).
At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in an apartment with her 20-yearold son, her 22-year-old daughter, her daughter's husband, and their new baby (AR. 54-56).
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. 136-39, 146-49, 155-58). Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Scott R. Morris ("the ALJ") on March 6, 2013 ( see AR. 38-73). On May 30, 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. 10-37).
In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether or not the ALJ's RFC assessment was incomplete, as it did not include limitations identified by several doctors whose opinions the ALJ gave "great weight"; (2) Whether or not the ALJ improperly rejected the opinion of examining psychologist Dr. Kimberly Wheeler, Ph.D.; (3) Whether or not the ALJ failed to provide legitimate reasons for finding plaintiff not credible; and (4) Whether or not the ALJ failed to provide reasons germane to David Vessey for rejecting his written lay statement ( see Dkt. 15, p. 1).
Because this Court reverses and remands the case based on issue 4, the Court need not further review all issues 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. ...