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Ruffin v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

March 14, 2018

ROCHELLE A. RUFFIN, 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. 6). This matter has been fully briefed. See Dkt. 13, 14, 15.

         After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred when evaluating plaintiff's allegations and testimony. Although the ALJ relied on plaintiff's activities of daily living when failing to credit fully her allegations, none of these activities demonstrate an inconsistency with plaintiff's allegations and they do not appear to be transferable to competitive employment. Therefore, the ALJ erred when concluding that these activities of daily living entail a valid reason for failing to credit fully plaintiff's allegations.

         Therefore, 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.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, ROCHELLE A. RUFFIN, was born in 1985 and was 27 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of September 9, 2012. See AR. 302-305, 306-11. Plaintiff has one year of college. AR. 51. Plaintiff has some work history in janitorial services, as a cashier, as a customer service specialist and as an administrative assistant. (AR. 337-51).

         According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairment of “hereditary hemolytic anemia (sickle cell) (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).” AR. 16.

         At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with her 7-year-old son. AR. 77-78.

         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. 82, 83, 100, 101. Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Tom Morris (“the ALJ”) on January 12, 2015 and continued to May 21, 2015. See AR. 49-81, 31-48. On August 10, 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. 11-30.

         In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Whether the ALJ erred in finding that plaintiff was less than credible and in failing to provide legally sufficient explanation for his finding; (2) Whether the ALJ's conclusion that the plaintiff is capable of meeting attendance tolerances of employers is supported by substantial evidence in the record; and (3) Whether the ALJ erred in failing to properly consider the opinion of the treating physician in the record and in failing to provide adequate explanation for not according this opinion more weight. See Dkt. 13, p. 2.

         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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