United States District Court, W.D. Washington
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF'S
Richard Creatura United States Magistrate Judge.
matter has been referred to United States Magistrate Judge J.
Richard Creatura pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and
Local Magistrate Judge Rule MJR 4(a)(4), and as authorized by
Mathews, Secretary of H.E.W. v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261,
271-72 (1976). This matter has been fully briefed
(see Dkt. 13, 17, 18).
to Social Security Ruling 96-6p, state agency medical
consultants, while not examining doctors, “are highly
qualified physicians and psychologists who are experts in the
evaluation of the medical issues in disability claims under
the Act.” SSR 96-6p, 1996 LEXIS 3 at *4. Although often
relied on heavily, the opinion from the state agency
physician, Dr. Norman Staley, M.D., in this matter was
rejected in part by the ALJ. Committing legal error, the ALJ
did not reference specific medical evidence when failing to
credit fully the medical opinion of Dr. Staley that plaintiff
was limited only to occasional handling, fingering, and
reaching in front and laterally. Even if the Court were to
presume that the ALJ was relying on findings discussed by
defendant, the ALJ's rationale still is not based on
substantial evidence in the record as a whole.
after considering and reviewing the record, the Court
concludes that the ALJ erred when evaluating the medical
evidence, and that this matter should be reversed and
remanded for further administrative proceedings consistent
with this Report and Recommendation.
CRAIG ALAN SANFORD, was born in 1970 and was 42 years old on
the amended alleged date of disability onset of July 25, 2012
(see AR. 12, 37, 250-56, 257-63). Plaintiff has at
least a high school education (AR. 25). Plaintiff has work
experience in purchasing, receiving, stocking, materials
manager and warehouse clerking (see AR. 289-300).
to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of
“spine disorder, disorder of muscle ligament and
fascia, affective disorder, anxiety disorder, substance
addiction disorder, and personality disorder (20 CFR
404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).” (AR. 15.)
time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with his father
applications for disability insurance (“DIB”)
benefits 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. 101, 102, 129-130).
Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Boyce (“the
ALJ”) on July 28, 2015 (see AR. 33-73). On
September 18, 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. 9-32).
November 25, 2016, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review, making the written decision by the ALJ
the final agency decision subject to judicial review (AR.
1-7). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. Plaintiff filed
a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the
ALJ's written decision in December, 2016 (see
Dkt. 3). Defendant filed the sealed administrative record
regarding this matter (“AR.”) on May 22, 2017
(see Dkt. 11).
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) Whether the ALJ erred when she rejected medical
opinions of plaintiff's physical limitations and when she
failed to include appropriate limitations in the RFC
assessment; and (2) whether the ALJ's finding that
plaintiff can perform other work at step five is supported by
competent or substantial evidence (see Dkt. 13, p.
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 ...