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Ermey v. Berryhill

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

August 16, 2017

LETICIA ERMEY, 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. 10, 11, 12.

         The ALJ provided a relatively thorough summary of the medical evidence connected with plaintiff's Social Security application. However, the ALJ failed to take note of or discuss plaintiff's obesity. The relevant Social Security Rulings require ALJs to consider claimants' obesity when determining claimants' severe impairments and claimants' limitations, and for the remaining steps of the sequential disability evaluation procedure. After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ's error in failing to do so is not harmless, as consideration of plaintiff's obesity could alter plaintiff's residual functional capacity such that she would be found disabled.

         Therefore, this matter 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.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, LETICIA ERMEY, was born in 1991. See AR. 190-99. She has a high school diploma. AR. 49. Plaintiff last worked at a fast food restaurant but quit when “it started being painful to work there.” AR. 49-50.

         According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of “right hip dysplasia; depression, [and] learning disorder for math, reading, expressive language, and written expression (20 CFR 416.920(c)).” AR. 21.

         At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in a friend's house with “maybe about seven people.” AR. 47-48.

         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 denied initially and following reconsideration. See AR. 85, 100. Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Cynthia D. Rosa (“the ALJ”) on September 24, 2014. See AR. 41-84. On February 27, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision in which the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act since her application date. See AR. 16-40.

         In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Did the ALJ reversibly err by failing to consider plaintiff's obesity; (2) Did the ALJ reversibly err by failing to properly evaluate the testimony evidence; and (3) Did the ALJ reversibly err by improperly discrediting plaintiff without providing sufficient reasons to do so. See Dkt. 10, 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 ...


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