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. 5; Consent to Proceed
Before a United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 6. This matter
has been fully briefed. See Dkt. 11, 12, 13.
considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes the
ALJ committed harmful legal error when she failed to credit
fully the medical opinion of an examining doctor regarding
plaintiff's workplace limitations. The ALJ's
conclusory opinion that the record is completely devoid of
support for the doctor's opinion is contrary to the
record as a whole, which includes six years of supportive
objective findings from three other treating providers.
Additionally, the ALJ's conclusion that the doctor's
opinions are inconsistent with plaintiff's activities is
not based on substantial evidence, but rather upon an
undeveloped record regarding plaintiff's parenting skills
and custody dispute, and an isolated incident in which
plaintiff successfully managed anger.
this matter is reversed pursuant to sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) and remanded to the Acting Commissioner
for further administrative proceedings.
AMANDA O'NEAL, was born in 1982 and was 24 years old on
the alleged date of disability onset of February 15, 2007.
See AR. 409-10, 411-19. Plaintiff did not complete
high school, but has her GED. AR. 48. She has some work
experience as a backroom stocker and has worked temporarily
as a clam digger, planter in a greenhouse, and hostess in a
restaurant. AR. 50-51. Plaintiff last worked part-time for
Target as a backroom stocker in 2005 and 2006. AR. 48.
to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of
“cervical and lumbar back strain; congenital fusion of
C4-5, with mild changes; possible Chiari I malformation;
right wrist extensor and tendonitis; affective disorder;
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); borderline personality
disorder; and polysubstance dependence, in sustained
remission since 2010 (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and
416.920(c)).” AR. 17.
time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in a transitional
women and children's house with her 3 ½ year old
daughter. AR. 47-48.
applications for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) 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. 134-45, 148-58, 161-77,
178-94. Plaintiff's first hearing resulted in an
unfavorable decision by the Administrative Law Judge.
See AR. 199-218. The Appeals Council remanded (AR.
219-22) and plaintiff's second hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge Stephanie Matz (“the
ALJ”) on June 17, 2014. See AR. 38-82. On
September 8, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision in which
the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to
the Social Security Act. See AR. 11-35.
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) Whether or not the ALJ erred in her evaluation of
the medical opinion evidence; (2) Whether or not the ALJ
erred in her evaluation of plaintiff's credibility; (3)
Whether or not the ALJ erred in her evaluation of the lay
witness statement pertaining to plaintiff's mental
impairments; and (4) Whether or not the proper remedy for the
errors is a remand for payment of benefits. See Dkt.
11, p. 1.
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 ...