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Park v. Berryhill

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

June 13, 2018

CHRISTOPHER M. PARK, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for Operations, 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 Consent to Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 2). This matter has been fully briefed. See Dkts. 14, 17, 18.

         This case involves conflicting opinions from two non-examining medical sources, Dr. Luahna Ude, Ph.D. and Dr. John Simonds, M.D, who gave opinions regarding plaintiff's functional limitations resulting from his psychological impairments. The ALJ gave greater weight to Dr. Simonds' opinion over Dr. Ude's opinion. However, the ALJ's reasons for rejecting Dr. Ude's opinion are not specific and legitimate supported by substantial evidence. This error is not harmless, because a reasonable ALJ, when fully crediting Dr. Ude's opinion, may have included additional limitations in the RFC, and could have reached a different disability determination.

         Therefore, this matter is reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further administrative proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, CHRISTOPHER M. PARK, was born in 1976 and was 35 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of September 20, 2011. See AR. 238-39. Plaintiff completed high school and two years of college. AR. 84-85. Plaintiff has work experience in telecommunications, video gaming, and wireless internet. AR. 87-88, 262-67.

         According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of “degenerative disc disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, asthma, morbid obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, an anxiety disorder, and an affective disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).” AR. 21.

         At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with his girlfriend in his parents' rental house. AR. 83.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423 (Title II) of the Social Security Act was denied initially and following reconsideration. See AR. 121, 134. Plaintiff later filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a) (Title XVI) (AR. 241-50) that was joined with the DIB claim. AR. 18. Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Rudy (Rudolph) M. Murgo (“the ALJ”) on June 18, 2015. See AR. 77-120. A supplemental hearing was held on October 2, 2015. See AR. 44-76. On November 30, 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. 15-43.

         In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issue: Whether the ALJ erred in rejecting the opinion of non-examining psychologist, Dr. Ude, without giving reasons supported by substantial evidence. See Dkt. 14 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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