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Bytheway v. Colvin

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

June 19, 2015

EVA BYTHEWAY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Defendant.

ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

JAMES L. ROBART, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of United States Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue (R&R (Dkt. # 16)), the objections of Plaintiff Eva Bytheway to the R&R (Obj. (Dkt. # 17)), and the response of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") to Ms. Bytheway's objection (Resp. (Dkt. # 18)). The court has carefully reviewed the foregoing, all other relevant documents, and the governing law. Being fully advised, the court ADOPTS the R&R, AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner, and DISMISSES the case WITH PREJUDICE.

II. BACKGROUND

The facts of the case are set forth in the ALJ's decision ( see AR (Dkt. # 8) at 8-24), the administrative hearing transcript ( id. at 24-54), and the briefs of the parties (Op. Brief. (Dkt. # 11); Resp. Brief (Dkt. # 14); Reply (Dkt. # 15)). They are briefly summarized here.

Ms. Bytheway was last insured on March 31, 2011, and alleges a disability onset date of December 11, 2009. (AR at 13.) Between these dates, Ms. Bytheway did not engage in substantial gainful activity. ( Id. )

Ms. Bytheway has undergone numerous medical procedures, including a cervical fusion surgery in January of 1996, arthroscopic knee surgery, multiple foot surgeries, and a gastroc recession on her left ankle. ( Id. at 32.) Ms. Bytheway also suffered a fall in 2009, which left her with lower back issues. ( Id. at 33.)

On October 28, 2011, Ms. Bytheway filed a Title II application for a period of Disability Insurance Benefits. ( Id. at 11.) Ms. Bytheway's claim was denied initially on February 9, 2012, and upon reconsideration on May 17, 2012. ( Id. ) After a hearing on February 26, 2013, the ALJ once again denied Ms. Bytheway's application for Disability Insurance Benefits. ( Id. at 8.)

In rendering her written decision, the ALJ followed the Social Security Administration's five-step sequential process for determining whether a person is disabled.[1] At step one, the ALJ found that Ms. Bytheway has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of December 11, 2009. ( Id. at 13.) At step two, the ALJ determined that through the date last insured, Ms. Bytheway had the following severe impairments: cervical degenerative disease, status post-fusion; left ulnar neuropathy; right thumb arthritis; and lumbar degenerative disc disease. ( Id. ) The ALJ found that Ms. Bytheway's right foot conditions, left knee arthritis, and obesity were not severe impairments. ( Id. at 13-14.) At step three, the ALJ determined that through the date last insured, Ms. Bytheway did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.[2] ( Id. at 14.)

At step four, the ALJ found that through the date last insured, Ms. Bytheway had the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b).[3] ( Id. at 15.) The ALJ determined that Ms. Bytheway should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, but that she could frequently stoop, crawl, and could frequently finger and handle bilaterally. ( Id. ) In making this determination, the ALJ found that although Ms. Bytheway's medically determinable underlying impairments could reasonably cause some of her symptoms, not all of Ms. Bytheway's statements regarding the severity of her symptoms are credible. ( Id. at 16.) The ALJ also considered the opinions of Gordon Hale, M.D., who completed a physical residual functional capacity assessment of Ms. Bytheway on May 17, 2012; Darcy Fox, D.C.; the team of Lewis Almarez, M.D., and Geoffrey Masci, D.C.; Christopher Jex, D.C., Ms. Bytheway's chiropractor; and Dr. Marianne Broers, Ms. Bytheway's primary care physician. ( Id. at 17.) The ALJ gave great weight to the opinion of Dr. Hale, significant weight to the opinions of Dr. Fox, Dr. Almarez, and Dr. Masci, and little weight to the opinions of Dr. Jex and Dr. Broers. ( Id. ) The ALJ also considered the statement provided by Ms. Bytheway's husband, William Bytheway. ( Id. at 18.) Based on her assessment of Ms. Bytheway's residual functional capacity, the ALJ concluded that through the date last insured, Ms. Bytheway was capable of performing her past relevant work[4] as a medical records clerk. ( Id. ) Because the ALJ found that Ms. Bytheway could perform her past relevant work, and thus is not disabled, the ALJ was not required to proceed to step five. The ALJ concluded that Ms. Bytheway was not under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act at any time from December 11, 2009, the alleged onset date, through March 31, 2011, the date last insured. ( Id. at 19.)

After the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council declined review ( id. at 1), the ALJ's determination became the final decision of the Commissioner. On March 3, 2015, Magistrate Judge Donohue entered an R&R that the court affirm the Commissioner's decision. Ms. Bytheway has filed objections to the R&R and requests that this case be remanded to the Commissioner for payment of benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Obj. at 7.)

III. ANALYSIS

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 ...


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