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Moen v. Berryhill

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

September 20, 2017

CHRISTINE M. MOEN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS

          Theresa L. Fricke United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff has brought this matter for judicial review of defendant's denial of her application for supplemental security income (SSI) benefits. The parties have consented to have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73; Local Rule MJR 13. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that defendant's decision to deny benefits should be reversed, and that this matter should be remanded for further administrative proceedings.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 5, 2009, plaintiff filed an application for SSI benefits, alleging she became disabled beginning February 27, 2007. Dkt. 12, Administrative Record (AR) 623. That application was denied on initial administrative review and on reconsideration. AR 18. A hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ), at which plaintiff appeared and testified. AR 35-74.

         In a decision dated February 15, 2012, the ALJ found that plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy and therefore that she was not disabled. AR 18-29. Plaintiff's request for review was denied by the Appeals Council, which plaintiff then appealed to this Court. AR 1, 623. On March 26, 2014, based on the stipulation of the parties, the Court remanded the matter to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings. AR 692-94.

         On remand, another hearing was held before the same ALJ, at which plaintiff appeared and testified, as did a vocational expert. AR 649-665. In a decision dated April 29, 2015, the ALJ again found plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, and therefore that she was not disabled. AR 623-640. It appears the Appeals Council did not assume jurisdiction of the matter, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision, which plaintiff appealed in a complaint filed with this Court on September 23, 2016. Dkt. 3; 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.

         Plaintiff seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand for further administrative proceedings, arguing the ALJ erred:

(1) in evaluating the medical evidence, including the opinions of Robert E. Schneider, Ph.D., M. Kristin Price, Ph.D., ; Daniel K. Beavers, D.O., Tobias A. Ryan, Psy.D., Donald D. Ramsthel, M.D., Gary Pape, M.D., Kye Park, M.D., Cynthia Collingwood, Ph.D., and Bruce Eather, Ph.D.
(2) in discounting plaintiff's credibility;
(3) in rejecting the lay witness evidence;
(4) in assessing plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”); and
(5) in finding plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court agrees the ALJ erred in evaluating the opinion of Dr. Ryan, and therefore in assessing plaintiff's RFC, in finding plaintiff to be capable of performing other jobs, and in determining plaintiff to be disabled. Accordingly, the Court finds that the decision to deny benefits should be ...


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