United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
KENNETH E. SMITH, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
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. 12, 13, 14.
endured three deaths of women close to him -- his
grandmother, mother, and fiancé -- all within a
two-month time span, September through November 2012.
See AR. 433. Plaintiff contends that when he filed
his disability applications, the Social Security Agent
selected his alleged date of disability onset in 2010, with
“no contact with claimant.” AR. 336. However, in
his briefing, plaintiff contends that his disability began in
December, 2012, shortly after the deaths of these three
women. See Dkt. 12, p. 11.
three different occasions, December 20, 2012; July 23, 2013;
and November 4, 2014, two different examining doctors both
opined that plaintiff suffered from a severe limitation in
his ability to complete a normal workday and workweek without
interruptions from psychologically-based symptoms.
See AR. 435 (Dr. Wheeler), 544 (Dr. Krueger), 642
(Dr. Krueger again). “Severe” means inability to
perform the particular activity in regular competitive
employment or outside of a sheltered workshop. See
failed to credit fully these opinions with a finding that
they were based heavily on plaintiff's subjective
complaints, however neither the ALJ nor defendant cites
anything from the record demonstrating as such. See
AR. 90. The ALJ also provided her own interpretation of the
mental status examinations, finding that plaintiff's
performance was “normal, ” however that was not
the interpretation provided by the psychologists who
performed the examinations and the finding by the ALJ is not
supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
Although the ALJ also noted plaintiff's activities of
daily living of getting along with others, being able to
socialize with his family, and visit public places, none of
these activities demonstrate that plaintiff was able to
complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions
from psychologically-based symptoms, nor do they demonstrate
that plaintiff was able to maintain attention and
concentration two hours at a time, eight hours per day, five
days per week.
the Court concludes that the ALJ failed to offer specific and
legitimate reasons based on substantial evidence in the
record as a whole for her failure to credit fully the
opinions of plaintiff's examining doctors, Dr. Wheeler
and Dr. Krueger.
considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes
that this matter should be reversed and remanded pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Acting
Commissioner for further administrative proceedings
consistent with this Order.
KENNETH E. SMITH, was born in 1968 and was 42 years old on
the alleged date of disability onset of May 31, 2010.
See AR. 293-99, 300-305. Plaintiff completed high
school and attended college, but did not obtain a degree. AR.
104. He has work experience as a truck driver, transportation
manager, plant supervisor and dispatcher. AR. 415-16.
Plaintiff's last job was as a transportation manager for
a trucking company, but the job ended when the company went
out of business. AR. 105-106.
to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of
“major depressive disorder; posttraumatic stress
disorder [“PTSD”]; [and] personality disorder (20
CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c).” AR. 82.
time of the hearing, plaintiff was living alone in a mobile
home on his sister's property. AR. 115-16.
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. 135-44, 146-55, 157-67,
169-79. Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge Kelly Wilson (“the ALJ”)
on January 26, 2015. See AR. 99-133. On February 27,
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. 77-98.
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) The ALJ failed to provide legitimate reasons for
rejecting the medical opinions of examining psychologists Dr.
Wheeler and Dr. Krueger; (2) The ALJ did not provide any
reasons germane to Cheryl Smith for rejecting her lay
evidence; (3) The ALJ did not provide clear or convincing
reasons for finding plaintiff not credible; and (4) The
ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment was
incomplete, as it did not include any limitations related to
plaintiff's daytime somnolence. See Dkt. 12, p.
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 ...