United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
JOHN A. BAX, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration for Operations, Defendant.
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
Richard Creatura United States Magistrate Judge.
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, 17, 18.
considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes
that the ALJ erred when evaluating the medical evidence
regarding plaintiff's post traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”). The ALJ found that one of the examining
clinical psychologists had conducted “extensive
testing, ” and had provided conclusions that are
supported by such testing, as well as being supported by the
doctor's "significant supporting
explanations.” AR. 75. However, the ALJ singled out and
failed to credit fully one particular opinion with a
conclusory finding that the clinical psychologist's one
opinion “substantially overstates the claimant's
limitations in this area.” Id. The ALJ does
not offer any reason as to why he believes that the clinical
psychologist's opinion regarding this one particular
limitation is a substantial overstatement of plaintiff's
limitations. This is a legal error.
this error is not harmless, as fully crediting it could lead
a reasonable ALJ to a finding of disability, this matter is
reversed and remanded to the Administration for further
proceedings consistent with this Order.
JOHN A. BAX, was born in 1965 and was 37 years old on the
alleged date of disability onset of September 1, 2002.
See AR. 221-26, 227-33. Plaintiff has his GED and is
certified in hazmat/bio-hazmat cleanup. AR. 89.
to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairment of
“post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (20 CFR
404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).” AR. 50.
time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with a roommate.
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 (“the Act”) were denied
initially and following reconsideration. See AR.
112, 113, 151, 152. Plaintiff's requested hearing was
held before Administrative Law Judge S. Andrew Grace
(“the ALJ”) on April 14, 2015. See AR.
85-111. On August 21, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision
in which he concluded that plaintiff was not disabled
pursuant to the Act. See AR. 45-84.
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) Whether the ALJ properly evaluated the medical
evidence; (2) plaintiff's testimony; (3) the lay
evidence; (4) plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(RFC), past relevant work, and the steps four and five
findings; and (5) Whether the new evidence submitted to the
Appeals council shows that the ALJ's decision is not
supported by substantial evidence and/or that it is based on
legal error. See Dkt. 13, p. 1.
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 ...