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Saluskin v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

January 12, 2018

GABRIELLE SALUSKIN, 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. 5; Consent to Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 7). This matter has been fully briefed. See Dkt. 13, 20, 21.

         As summarized by the ALJ, plaintiff “has had a difficult past, with a chaotic and abusive childhood, and drug and alcohol abuse. However . . . . [she] ‘has totally changed her life' to one of being clean and sober, with a clean and sober partner, and a focus on successful parenting and housing.” AR. 17 (citation omitted). Although Dr. Kathleen Anderson M.D., examined plaintiff and concluded that “the prognosis for her being able to sustain competitive employment is poor, ” the ALJ failed to credit this opinion. AR. 18-19, 230.

         After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred when failing to credit fully the medical evidence offered by Dr. Andersen. Although the ALJ relied on a finding that Dr. Andersen relied heavily on plaintiff's subjective statements, the ALJ cited no evidence from the record in support of this finding.

         Because the ALJ's finding that Dr. Andersen relied heavily on plaintiff's subjective allegations is not based on substantial evidence in the record as a whole, and for other reasons discussed herein, this matter is reversed and remanded to the Administration for further proceedings consistent with this Order.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, GABRIELLE SALUSKIN, was born in 1983 and was 20 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of September 1, 2004. See AR. 154-63. Plaintiff believes that she finished the eighth grade and has not obtained a GED. AR. 38-39. She has no work experience other than in the sex industry. AR. 39-40.

         According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of “anxiety disorder, personality disorder, and morbid obesity (20 CFR 416.920(c)).” AR. 12.

         At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with her 3-year-old daughter and the child's father in an apartment. AR. 36-37.

         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. 69, 97. Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Cheri L. Filion (“the ALJ”) on May 11, 2015. See AR. 28-68. On October 6, 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. 7-24.

         In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issue: (1) Did the ALJ properly weigh the medical opinions when assessing plaintiff's mental limitations in order to formulate a thorough residual functional capacity (RFC). See Dkt. 13, p. 1.

         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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