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Kober v. Berryhill

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

July 6, 2018

JANET S. KOBER, 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 Dkt. 9, 10.

         After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ erred in evaluating plaintiff's credibility because he did not give specific, clear and convincing reasons for rejecting plaintiff's credibility. The ALJ's reasons for rejecting plaintiff's credibility relied on his assessment that plaintiff's daily activities were in excess of her claimed limitations. This was in error because the ALJ did not evaluate whether plaintiff's daily activities met the threshold for transferrable work skills, nor specify how her past reports to others conflicted with her testimony. This credibility determination was not harmless error because a more favorable credibility determination may have added additional limitations to plaintiff's residual functional capacity and resulted in a different disability determination.

         Accordingly, this Court orders that this matter be remanded in accordance with sentence four of 42 USC §405(g).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, JANET KOBER, was born in 1964 and was 48 years old on the alleged date of disability onset of February 4, 2013. See AR. 171-74. Plaintiff graduated from high school and has had some vocational training. AR. 42. Plaintiff has some work experience as a cashier but was terminated due to attendance issues. AR. 43, 266-67.

         According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe medically determinable impairments of “degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; migraine headaches; obesity; and chronic pain syndrome (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).” AR. 23.

         At the time of the hearing, plaintiff was living with her husband.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423 (Title II) of the Social Security Act were denied initially and following reconsideration. See AR. 61-71, 74-85. Plaintiff's requested hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Gary Elliott (“the ALJ”) on May 13, 2016. See AR. 37-60. On June 23, 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. 18-36.

         In plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following issues: (1) Did the Commissioner err in determining plaintiff's severe impairments; (2) Did the Commissioner err in determining plaintiff's RFC; (3) Did the Commissioner err in evaluating plaintiff's credibility; and (4) Did the Commissioner err in evaluating the opinion evidence. See Dkt. 9, 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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