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Robair v. Berryhill

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

January 16, 2018

MARION REENE ROBAIR, 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. 3; Consent to Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 4). This matter has been fully briefed. See Dkt. 9, 10, 11.

         After considering the record, the Court concludes the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in his treatment of plaintiff's testimony. For example, the ALJ did not provide a specific, clear, and convincing reason for rejecting a plaintiff's testimony by simply reciting the medical evidence in support of plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) determination. In addition, the ALJ failed to provide clear and convincing reasons for rejecting plaintiff's subjective symptom testimony regarding her left knee and lumbar spine.

         Had the ALJ properly considered this evidence, the RFC may have included additional limitations. Therefore, the ALJ's error is not harmless, 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.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, MARION REENE ROBAIR, was born in 1976 and was 33 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of January 21, 2010. See AR. 182-83, 193-99. Plaintiff started the twelfth grade in school, but did not graduate. AR. 577. Plaintiff has some work experience stocking merchandise and cashiering. AR. 577-78.

         According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of “degenerative joint disease of the left knee, status post total knee replacement, mild lumbar degenerative disc disease, necrotizing fasciitis, bilateral de Quervain's tenosynovitis, and elevated body mass index (BMI) (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).” AR. 554.

         At the time of the first hearing, plaintiff was living with her husband. AR 43.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff's 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. 77-85, 87-95. Plaintiff's first requested hearing resulted in an unfavorable decision. AR. 13-28. Plaintiff sought review in this Court and the Court remanded for further administrative proceedings. AR. 659-67.

         Plaintiff's second hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Michael C. Blanton (“the ALJ”) on October 5, 2016. See AR. 571-603. On March 27, 2017, the ALJ issued a written decision in which the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act. See AR. 552-63.

         In plaintiff's Opening Brief, she raises the following issues: (1) The ALJ erred in finding that the claimant's statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of her symptoms was inconsistent with the medical and other evidence of record; and (2) The ALJ's errors were not harmless. See Dkt. 9 at 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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