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Morgan v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

June 19, 2017

REBECCA I. MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, 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. 4; Consent to Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 5). This matter has been fully briefed (see Dkt. 19, 26, 27).

         After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred in failing to acknowledge that plaintiff was performing a composite job, rather than two separate DOT occupations of Data Entry Clerk and Mailroom Clerk. Therefore, despite the repeated remands of this claim on other grounds, because of unresolved issues, this matter must be remanded again for further consideration.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, REBECCA I. MORGAN, was born in 1962 and was 38 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of April 1, 2001. See AR. 146. Plaintiff graduated from high school. AR. 543. Plaintiff has work experience as a cashier, a “parts racker, ” a manager, and performing a myriad of tasks in a temporary position at the Department of Social and Human Services (DSHS). AR. 182

         According to the ALJ, through the date last insured, the claimant had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, compression fracture of T12, degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, right shoulder tendinitis, fibromyalgia, depressive disorder, and anxiety disorder. AR. 1572; 20 CFR 404.1520(c)).

         At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with her husband and adult daughter. AR. 545, 555.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In June 2005, plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423 (Title II) of the Social Security Act, alleging disability as of April 1, 2001. AR. 146. Plaintiff's application was denied upon initial administrative review and on reconsideration. See AR. 125, 128. Plaintiff had her first hearing before an ALJ on November 15, 2007, at which plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified. See AR. 538.

         On February 20, 2008, the ALJ found plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of Sections 216(i), 223, and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. AR. 80-81. Over the next six years, plaintiff's case has since been reversed and remanded by the Appeals Council and by this Court three times and by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals once. See AR. 84-87, 111-14; Doc. 24; Morgan v. Colvin, 531 F.App'x 793, 794 (9th Cir. 2013). Plaintiff has testified at four ALJ hearings, and three ALJs have rendered a total of four decisions. As of the date of this Order, plaintiff's claims have been pending just shy of twelve years from the date plaintiff filed her first application for DIB.

         In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether or not the ALJ erred by basing her step four finding on an erroneous determination of plaintiff's past relevant work; (2) Whether or not the ALJ erred in her evaluation of the medical opinion evidence; and (3) Whether or not the proper remedy for the errors in the ALJ's decision is remand for benefits. See Dkt. 19, p. 1. Because the Court concludes that issue number one is dispositive, the remainder of the issues raised will be discussed only briefly in order to provide more direction for the ALJ.

         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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