Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Wingo v. Berryhill

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

April 21, 2017

JENNIFER G. WINGO, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS

          DAVID W. CHRISTEL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jennifer G. Wingo filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for judicial review of Defendant's denial of Plaintiff's applications for supplemental security income (“SSI”) and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73 and Local Rule MJR 13, the parties have consented to have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. See Dkt. 6.

         After reviewing the record, the Court concludes the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred when he failed to discuss significant, probative evidence showing Plaintiff's back impairment to be severe. The ALJ further erred when he failed to provide specific and legitimate reasons supported by substantial evidence in support of his decision to give only minimal weight to Dr. Brown's medical opinion. Had the ALJ properly considered pertinent evidence regarding Plaintiff's back impairment and properly considered the medical opinion evidence, the residual functional capacity may have included additional limitations. The ALJ's error is therefore harmful, and this matter is reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) for further proceedings consistent with this Order.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 23, 2008, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI and DIB, alleging disability as of July 1, 2006. See Dkt. 13, Administrative Record (“AR”) 125-132, 632. The application was denied upon initial administrative review and on reconsideration. See AR 66-69, 70-74, 632. On January 6, 2011, ALJ Marguerite Schellentrager found Plaintiff not disabled. AR 17-26, 632. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's administrative appeal. See AR 1-5, 632. Plaintiff appealed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, which remanded the case for further proceedings. See AR 724-735; Wingo v. Colvin, 3:12-CV-05582-BHS-KLS (W.D. Wash.).

         On remand, Plaintiff received a second hearing before ALJ Robert P. Kingsley, who again found Plaintiff not disabled. AR 629-647. Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision was denied by the Appeals Council, making ALJ Kingsley's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See AR 622-624; 20 C.F.R. § 404.981, § 416.1481. Plaintiff now appeals ALJ Kingsley's decision finding Plaintiff not disabled.[1]

         In Plaintiff's Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ erred by: (1) finding Plaintiff's back condition and hepatitis C were not severe impairments at Step Two; (2) providing legally insufficient reasons for rejecting medical source opinions; (3) failing to provide clear and convincing reasons for finding Plaintiff not entirely credible; (4) failing to provide germane reasons for rejecting lay testimony; (5) finding Plaintiff capable of performing her past relevant work at Step Four; and (6) basing his Step Five finding on his erroneous residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment. Dkt. 16, p. 2.

         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 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th Cir. 1999)).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Whether the ALJ erred by finding Plaintiff's back impairment and hepatitis C did not constitute severe impairments at Step Two.

         Plaintiff asserts the ALJ erred in failing to find Plaintiff's (A) back pain associated with multilevel degenerative disc disease, spondylosis, and herniated disc, and (B) hepatitis C were severe impairments at Step Two. Dkt. 16, pp. 15-16.

         Step Two of the administration's evaluation process requires the ALJ to determine whether the claimant “has a medically severe impairment or combination of impairments.” Smolen v. Chater, 80 F.3d 1273, 1290 (9th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii) (1996). An impairment is “not severe” if it does not “significantly limit” the ability to conduct basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1521(a), 416.921(a). “Basic work activities are ‘abilities and aptitudes necessary to do most jobs, including, for example, walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying or handling.'” Smolen, 80 F.3d at 1290 (quoting 20 C.F.R. §140.1521(b)). “An impairment or combination of impairments can be found ‘not severe' only if the evidence establishes a slight abnormality having ‘no more than a minimal effect on an individual[']s ability to work.'” Id. (quoting Yuckert v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 303, 306 (9th Cir. 1988) (adopting Social Security Ruling “SSR” 85-28)).

         A. Back Impairment

         The ALJ found Plaintiff's multilevel degenerative disc disease, spondylosis, and herniated disc were not severe impairments at Step Two because the record showed minimally related treatment and complaints from Plaintiff to medical providers related to these conditions. AR 635. The ALJ cited Plaintiff's treatment records indicating lack of symptoms associated with her conditions including lack of tenderness, full range of motion, full strength, intact sensation, and stable and normal gait. AR 635 (citing AR. 882, 886, 888, 1072, 1074, 1077, 1085). The ALJ further found the record, including Plaintiff's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.