United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
DENNIS J. ROBINSON, 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. 6). This matter
has been fully briefed. See Dkt. 13, 17, 18.
found that plaintiff is disabled when his substance use
disorders are considered. AR. 20. However, the ALJ also found
that plaintiff “would not be disabled if he stopped the
substance use, ” and hence, plaintiff is not
“disabled within the meaning of the Social Security
Act.” AR. 26.
Social Security Act prohibits the award of disability
benefits when drug addiction and/or alcoholism is a
contributing factor material to the determination of
disability. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423
(d)(2)(C), 1382c(a)(3)(J); Sousa v. Callahan, 143
F.3d 1240, 1245 (9th Cir. 1998).
considering and reviewing the record, although the ALJ used
the correct standard when reviewing plaintiff's claimed
disability, the ALJ erred by failing to discuss the
significant, probative evidence provided by a reviewing
doctor. The reviewing doctor, Dr. Phyllis N. Sanchez, Ph.D.,
issued opinions directly relevant to the important findings
providing the basis for the ALJ's ultimate decision
regarding disability in this matter, including whether
plaintiff would be disabled if he stopped the substance use.
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.
DENNIS J. ROBINSON, was born in 1985 and was 27 years old on
the alleged date of disability onset of March 21, 2013.
See AR. 211-17, 218-24. Plaintiff completed high
school. AR. 52. Plaintiff has some work history as a food
warehouse stocker, in telecommunications and in customer
service. AR. 279-90. He was let go from his last job for
tardiness. AR. 42-43 According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at
least the severe impairments of “schizoaffective
disorder, bipolar affective disorder, poly substance abuse
and antisocial personality disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and
416.920(c)).” AR. 15 At the time of the hearing,
plaintiff was living in a house with his grandmother, aunt
and cousin. AR. 38.
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. 90, 91, 112, 113.
Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge Robert P. Kingsley (“the
ALJ”) on November 26, 2014. See AR. 32-66. On
May 21, 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. 9-31.
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) Whether the ALJ properly evaluated the medical
evidence; (2) Whether the ALJ properly evaluated
plaintiff's testimony; (3) Whether the ALJ properly
evaluated the lay evidence; (4) Whether the ALJ properly
assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) in the absence of substance abuse
(“DAA”) and erred by basing the step four and
five findings on his erroneous RFC assessment; and (5)
Whether the ALJ erred by improperly concluding that
plaintiff's DAA was a factor material to his disability.
See Dkt. 13, p. 2.
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 ...