United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
Richard Creatura United States Magistrate Judge
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. 3; Consent to Proceed
Before a United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 5). This matter
has been fully briefed (see Dkt. 9, 10, 11).
considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes
that the ALJ did not commit harmful legal error when
evaluating plaintiff's allegations and testimony. It is
true that once a claimant demonstrates the existence of an
impairment an ALJ may not fail to credit fully the
claimant's allegations of limitations based on a lack of
objective medical evidence. However, such reasoning is
distinct from a finding that a claimant's allegations are
inconsistent with or are contradicted by the medical record.
plaintiff's allegation of disabling pain rendering her
unable to walk more than 15 minutes is inconsistent with the
recommendation from her physician that she continue with
walking and exercise. This allegation also is inconsistent
with the observation of plaintiff's physician that she
walked without evidence of pain. Similarly, plaintiff's
allegations of shoulder pain and reaching limitations are
contradicted by the observation from her physician that she
moved her upper extremities without any limitation and that
moving her shoulders was painless.
the ALJ uses the term “credibility”, this is not a
determination of whether or not plaintiff is a truthful
person, but is a determination of whether her allegations
regarding her limitations should be accommodated fully when
making a determination of the extent of her limitations and
the timing of them. Some of the allegations that the ALJ
failed to credit fully were reported by plaintiff in 2013,
and may have accurately reflected her contemporaneous
experience at that time. However, in the decision being
reviewed by the Court, the ALJ found that the alleged
limitations did not exist prior to December 31, 2010 -- the
date last insured. That finding is based on substantial
evidence in the record as a whole, as discussed more
as plaintiff needs to establish disability on or before
December 31, 2010 in order to be entitled to a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits, and as the
ALJ's finding that she was not under a disability at any
time from her alleged onset date through December 31, 2010 is
supported by substantial evidence, the Court concludes that
this matter shall be affirmed pursuant to sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
ANDREA MITZEL, was born in 1971 and was 38 years old on the
alleged date of disability onset of September 1, 2010
(see AR. 133-34). Plaintiff completed the tenth
grade in high school and has not obtained her GED (AR. 33).
Plaintiff has work experience as a secretary/office
administrator and waitress (AR. 33-38). However,
plaintiff's last job as a secretary was very difficult
for her, as she found it difficult to sit for long periods of
time (see AR. 34).
to the ALJ, through the date last insured, plaintiff had at
least the severe impairments of “cervical degenerative
disc disease; mild lumbar degenerative disc disease; and mild
tendinopathy of the left shoulder (20 CFR 404.1520(c))”
time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with her husband
and 9-year-old son (AR. 39-40). //
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423 (Title
II) of the Social Security Act was denied initially and
following reconsideration (see AR. 56-61, 63-69).
Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge Michael C. Blanton (“the
ALJ”) on September 18, 2014 (see AR. 27-54).
On January 9, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision in
which the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled
pursuant to the Social Security Act (see AR. 9-26).
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) The ALJ erred by failing to credit fully
plaintiff's allegations and testimony; and (2) The
ALJ's errors were not harmless (see Dkt. 9, p.