United States District Court, W.D. Washington
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, 13, 14).
was assaulted at the age of 11 by the boyfriend of her aunt.
AR. 335. This continued until plaintiff was 13, “when
her great-grandmother caught him.” Id. The
perpetrator “was convicted and [sentenced to] 7-11
years, ” and indicated that he “wanted to try to
see [plaintiff] when he got out.” Id. Although
plaintiff received her GED at the age of 16, the last grade
she completed in high school was 10th grade.
school, plaintiff began to experience post-traumatic stress
disorder (“PTSD”) symptoms, where she is
hypervigilant and suffers from flashbacks, nightmares,
self-harming behavior, and panic attacks. Id.
the ALJ found that the opinions from an examining
psychologist were based largely on plaintiff's
self-reports, the record demonstrates that the psychologist,
Dr. McDuffee, performed a mental status examination, on which
she relied, and also personally observed various of
plaintiff's symptoms, such as her high anxiety. Because
the ALJ's finding that the psychologist's opinion was
based largely on self-reports is not supported by substantial
evidence, and because this is the only reason explicitly
relied on by the ALJ for failing to credit fully this medical
opinion, this matter is reversed and remanded for further
MELISSA GOLDEN, was born in 1988 and was 22 years old on the
alleged date of disability onset of March 1, 2011, and 24
years old on her protective filing date of May 16, 2013.
See AR. 176-81. Plaintiff did not complete high
school, but did get a GED. AR. 50-51. Plaintiff has some work
experience as a cashier, housekeeper/cleaner and child
monitor. AR. 43-45.
to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of
“obesity, disorder of the respiratory system, anxiety
disorder, and an effective disorder (20 CFR
416.920(c)).” AR. 18.
time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in an apartment
with her ex-boyfriend. AR. 61-62.
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1382(a) (Title XVI) of the Social Security Act was denied
initially and following reconsideration. See AR. 76,
98. Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge Tom L. Morris (“the
ALJ”) on February 24, 2015. See AR. 33-75. On
April 13, 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. 13-32.
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) Whether the ALJ erred in his weighing of Dr.
McDuffee's opinion; and (2) Whether the ALJ erred in
assessing plaintiff's allegations and testimony in regard
to the severity and limiting effects of her mental
impairments. 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 ...