United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
JAMES R. KOEN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner of Social Security 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 Consent to Proceed before a United States
Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 2). This matter has been fully
briefed. See Dkt. 11, 12, 13.
psychologist Dr. Kay Stradinger, Psy.D. diagnosed plaintiff
with alcohol dependence, history of methamphetamine
dependence, unspecified depressive disorder, and generalized
anxiety disorder. AR. 410. The Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) gave little weight to Dr.
Stradinger's opinion that plaintiff has moderate
impairments in performing detailed and complex tasks,
interacting with supervisors and coworkers, maintaining
regular attendance in the workplace, completing a normal
workday/workweek without interruptions from a psychiatric
condition, and dealing with usual stress encountered in the
workplace. AR. 24, 30, 411.
the ALJ erred in finding that Dr. Stradinger's opinion
was not consistent with her findings and the overall
treatment record. Moreover, the ALJ's finding that Dr.
Stradinger's report is based largely on plaintiff's
self-reports is not supported by substantial evidence. This
error is not harmless, because a reasonable ALJ, when fully
crediting Dr. Stradinger's opinion, may have included
additional limitations in the RFC, and could have reached a
different disability determination.
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.
JAMES R. KOEN, was born in 1969 and was 43 years old on the
alleged date of disability onset of July 1, 2013.
See AR. 194-200, 201-09. Plaintiff completed the
11th grade and later obtained his GED. AR. 48.
Plaintiff has some work history, doing construction, line
production, meat cutting and manual labor. AR. 48-54, 267-68.
to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of
“congestive heart failure and polysubstance abuse (20
CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).” AR. 22.
time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in his van. AR. 62.
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. 86, 93, 100, 116.
Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before ALJ Richard
Geib on December 16, 2015. See AR. 41-85. On
February 12, 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. 17-40.
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) Whether the ALJ properly evaluated the medical
evidence; (2) Whether the ALJ properly evaluated
plaintiff's testimony; (3) Whether the ALJ properly
evaluated the lay evidence; and (4) Whether the ALJ properly
assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) and erred by basing his step four and
five findings on his erroneous RFC assessment. See
Dkt. 11 at 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 ...