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Lindgrin v. Berryhill

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

January 22, 2018

ADRIANNE LINDGRIN, 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. 11, 12, 13.

         Plaintiff was sexual assaulted between the ages of two and five, and at age fourteen. AR. 475. An examining doctor, Dr. Quisenberry, Ph.D., indicated that “a diagnosis of PTSD is appropriate and warranted but the claimant was unable to provide enough data to support that diagnosis at this time, ” perhaps due to the PTSD itself. Id. Dr. Quisenberry opined that plaintiff's “social anxiety appears to play a significant factor in her ability to relate and interact with others, which would make seeking and retaining a job difficult.” AR. 475. He also opined that “it is clear that [plaintiff] is significantly impaired at this moment in time . . . .” AR. 476. Similarly, plaintiff's treating psychiatrist opined that plaintiff “will not be able to be gainfully employed in any conceivable setting in any conceivable time in the near or distant future.” AR. 509.

         After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred when failing to credit fully the medical opinion from the treating psychiatrist. Although the ALJ found that the medical opinion was contradicted by the treatment record demonstrating that plaintiff's condition was stable and that she had experienced improvement, the ALJ failed to discuss significant probative evidence in the letter from the treating psychiatrist directly contradicting this finding by the ALJ.

         Because this error is not harmless, this matter is reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Acting Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this Order.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, ADRIANNE LINDGRIN, was born in 1986 and was 27 years old on the amended alleged date of disability onset of October 16, 2013. See AR. 72, 268-76. Plaintiff has received her GED. AR. 63. Plaintiff has very little work history that includes filing papers and planting trees. AR. 64-70.

         According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of “major depressive disorder; anxiety; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD); psychosis, not otherwise specified; bipolar disorder I; social phobia; and social anxiety (20 CFR 416.920(c)).” AR. 16.

         At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with her boyfriend and his cousin. AR. 89.

         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. 100-110, 112-22. Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth Watson (“the ALJ”) on January 19, 2016. See AR. 55-99. On February 8, 2016, the ALJ issued a written decision in which the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act. See AR. 11-29.

         In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether the ALJ erred by rejecting the opinion of plaintiff's treating psychiatrist without providing specific and legitimate reasons; and (2) Whether the ALJ met her burden at step five of the sequential evaluation process. See Dkt. 11, 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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