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Axtman v. Berryhill

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

April 12, 2017

CALVIN AXTMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

          J. Richard Creatura United States 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. 7). This matter has been fully briefed. See Dkt. 11, 12, 13.

         Plaintiff was awarded Supplement Security Income (“SSI”) benefits after a finding that he was disabled as of September 28, 2012. AR. 13, 29. That finding was not disturbed by the ALJ in this matter. AR. 13. The only question presented in this matter is whether he also is eligible for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II, for which he needs to establish that he became disabled while he was insured for those benefits. Id. The ALJ found that plaintiff “last met the insured status requirement of the Social Security Act on September 30, 2002.” AR. 15.

         Plaintiff argues herein that such date is incorrect because the ALJ failed to develop the record on plaintiff's other earnings not present in the Commissioner's earnings records. However, the Commissioner's earnings records are conclusive regarding earned coverage of disability insurance, absent timely filed tax returns, and plaintiff only corrected four years of returns, with only two of them being timely filed, at most. Even adding in the most possible, eight additional quarters for those two years of timely updated tax returns, plaintiff still has not established an earlier date last insured for disability insurance.

         Therefore, after considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ properly derived plaintiff's date last insured and did not err by failing to develop the record. The ALJ therefore also properly found that plaintiff has not established disability prior to his date last insured. Hence, this matter is affirmed pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, CALVIN AXTMAN, was born in 1959 and was 43 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of September 1, 2002. See AR. 153-59. Plaintiff graduated from high school and completed a four-year apprenticeship for carpentry. AR. 33-34 He worked as a union carpenter and then opened his own business. AR. 34. The testimony from the hearing suggests that plaintiff worked as a carpenter contractor from 2003 until 2007, when his back started to give him problems with his work. See AR. 34.

         According to the ALJ, “through the date last insured, there were no medical signs or laboratory findings to substantiate the existence of a medically determinable impairment (20 CFR 404.1520(c))” for the plaintiff. AR. 16.

         At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in a single-wide trailer. AR. 38.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a) (Title XVI) of the Social Security Act was granted, with a disability onset date of September 28, 2012. AR. 13. Plaintiff's 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. 55, 60. Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Gordon W. Griggs (“the ALJ”) on September 30, 2014. See AR. 24-54. On October 27, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision in which the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act prior to his date last insured for DIB. See AR. 10-23.

         In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issue: Whether or not the Commissioner erred in failing to develop the record regarding plaintiff's date last insured. See Dkt. 11, p. 1.

         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 ...


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