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.

Dodson v. Berryhill

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

August 31, 2017

CHRISTOPHER L DODSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS

          David W. Christel, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Christopher L. Dodson filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for judicial review of Defendant's denial of his application for 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 considering the record, the Court concludes the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) failed to properly consider the Veterans Affairs (“VA”) Rating Decision (“VA Rating”). Had the ALJ properly considered the VA Rating, the ALJ may have determined Plaintiff was disabled or the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) may have included additional limitations. Therefore, the ALJ's error is 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 March 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging disability as of November 1, 2007. See Dkt. 10, Administrative Record (“AR”) 685. The application was denied upon initial administrative review and on reconsideration. See AR 685. Hearings were held before ALJ Robert P. Kingsley in January and April of 2014. AR 36-73. ALJ Kingsley found Plaintiff not disabled. AR 17-31. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's administrative appeal, making the ALJ's opinion the final decision of the Commissioner. See AR 1-6. Plaintiff appealed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, which remanded the case for further proceedings. See AR 817-34; Dodson v. Colvin, 3:15-CV-04144-JRC (W.D. Wash., Sept. 30, 2015).

         On remand, Plaintiff received a second hearing before ALJ Cynthia D. Rosa. AR 742-82. At the hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged onset date to April 1, 2009. AR 746. On November 23, 2016, ALJ Rosa found Plaintiff not disabled. AR 685-702. Plaintiff did not file written exceptions with the Appeals Council, making the November 23, 2016 decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See AR 682. Plaintiff now appeals the ALJ Rosa's November 23, 2016 decision.[1]

         In the Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ failed to provide: (1) specific, persuasive, valid reasons for rejecting the VA Rating; (2) clear and convincing reasons for finding Plaintiff is not as limited as he testified; and (3) germane reasons for rejecting the testimony of Mandy Gordon. Dkt. 12, pp. 1-2.

         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 properly considered the VA Rating.

         Plaintiff first alleges the ALJ failed to provide adequate reasons for rejecting the VA Rating. Dkt. 12, pp. 3-10.

         A determination by the VA about whether a claimant is disabled is not binding on the Social Security Administration (“SSA”); however, an ALJ must consider the VA's determination in reaching his or her decision. McCartey v. Massanari, 298 F.3d 1072, 1076 (9th Cir. 2002); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1504. Further, the ALJ “must ordinarily give great weight to a VA determination of disability.” McCartey, 298 F.3d at 1076. This is because of “the marked similarity” between the two federal disability programs. See Id. (describing similarities in the programs). However, “[b]ecause the VA and SSA criteria for determining disability are not identical, ” the ALJ “may give less weight to a VA disability rating if [s]he gives persuasive, specific, valid reasons for doing so that are supported by the record.” Id. (citing Chambliss v. Massanari, 269 F.3d 520, 522 (5th Cir. 2001).

         On July 17, 2013, the VA issued the Rating finding, in relevant part, Plaintiff's posttraumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) with depressive disorder resulted in a 100% disability rating effective November 18, 2011. AR 331. The VA determined Plaintiff also met housebound criteria as of November 18, 2011. AR 331. The VA found Plaintiff's PTSD resulted in 100% disability because Plaintiff had: total occupational and social impairment, persistent delusions, persistent hallucinations, difficulty in adapting to a worklike setting, difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances, difficulty in adapting to work, a Global Assessment of Function (“GAF”) score of 50, difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships, forgetting ...


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.