United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
MELISSA A. CHICK, 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. 7). This matter
has been fully briefed. See Dkt. 14, 15, 16.
issue in this case is plaintiff's abilities regarding
sustained sitting, standing, and walking. In September, 2013,
an MRI of plaintiff's lumbar spine revealed “a
large left herniated disc at ¶ 5-S1 with severe central
canal stenosis and disc protrusions at ¶ 3-L4 and
L4-L5.” AR. 28 (citation omitted). In October, 2013,
plaintiff underwent surgery on her lower back, consisting of
a laminectomy. See Id. As acknowledged by the ALJ,
consistent with plaintiff's allegations,
“post-operative MRI images in February, 2014 and
January, 2015 showed, among other things, that the herniated
disc at ¶ 5-S1 appeared larger than it did
preoperatively, and [plaintiff] still had severe central
canal stenosis and other disc protrusions in her lumbar
spine." Id. (citations omitted).
rejected plaintiff's allegations of limitations in
sustained sitting, standing and walking based, in part, on a
finding of inconsistency with plaintiff's activities of
daily living. However, the activities of daily living noted
by the ALJ, such as performing light household chores,
watching television, going shopping in stores, and using the
computer, are not inconsistent with plaintiff's
allegations of limitations in sustained sitting, standing and
walking. Furthermore, while appearing to rely heavily on
plaintiff's dramatic presentation, the ALJ failed to
acknowledge significant probative evidence regarding
observations of plaintiff's treating physician and
examination findings such as positive left straight leg
raising, absent left ankle jerk and inability to sit still.
the Court concludes that this matter requires further
administrative development and is reversed and remanded
pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the
Acting Commissioner for further consideration consistent with
this order. Following remand of this matter, the ALJ should
be sure to evaluate functional assessments from
plaintiff's treating providers with respect to the period
of time both before and after her 2013 surgery.
MELISSA A. CHICK, was born in 1978 and was 32 years old on
the alleged date of disability onset of February 15, 2011.
See AR. 259-60, 261-69. Plaintiff has at least a
12th grade education. AR. 49.
to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of
“lumbar stenosis and herniation, status post
laminectomy; neck strain, status post C-6 fracture;
polysubstance abuse; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
anxiety disorder; and depressive disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c)
and 416.920(c)).” AR. 22.
time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with her parents in
their home. AR. 48-49.
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. 20. Plaintiff's
requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge
Joanne E. Dantonio (“the ALJ”) on November 19,
2014. See AR. 41-106. On April 28, 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. 17-40.
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) Did the ALJ err by rejecting all of the opinions
about plaintiff's ability to perform the sitting and
standing required for sedentary work, and then substituting
her opinion for that of a doctor and formulating a RFC which
lacks the support of physicians or other experts; and (2) Did
the ALJ err by failing to develop the record when she
rejected all of the medical opinions in evidence about
plaintiff's back impairments. See Dkt. 14, 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 ...