United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
DEBORAH L. BAKER, 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. 5). This matter has been fully
briefed. See Dkt. 10, 14, 15.
considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes the
ALJ erred in evaluating plaintiff's credibility. The ALJ
rejected plaintiff's credibility because plaintiff made
inconsistent statements regarding her past substance use,
failed to seek treatment, and reported daily activities that
undermined her reported limitations. The ALJ erred in her
credibility analysis because she did not specify how
plaintiff's past reports to providers conflicted with her
testimony regarding her daily activities, nor evaluate
whether plaintiff's daily activities met the threshold
for transferrable work skills. The ALJ also erred because she
did not provide clear and convincing reasons for her finding
that plaintiff made inconsistent statements regarding her
past substance use. Finally, the record does not support the
ALJ's allegation that plaintiff failed to seek treatment
for her conditions. 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.
this Court orders that this matter be remanded in accordance
with sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
DEBORAH LE ANN BAKER, was born in 1965 and was 47 years old
on the alleged date of disability onset of December 23, 2013.
See AR. 200-08. Plaintiff completed the ninth grade,
obtained a GED and two Associate Degrees in college. AR. 51.
Plaintiff has limited work experience in childcare,
housekeeping, and other odd jobs. AR. 223-33. Plaintiff last
worked in 2004. Id.
to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of
“status post gunshot wound to the left leg, left hip
bursitis, obesity, psoriasis, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, asthma, hepatitis C, lower extremity numbness, major
depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
history of substance abuse, and anxiety disorder (20 CFR
416.920(c)).” AR. 25.
time of the hearing, plaintiff was living in a duplex with
her two dogs. AR. 65.
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1382(a) (Title XVI) of the Social Security Act was denied
initially and following reconsideration. See AR.
122-31, 133-44. Plaintiff's requested hearing was held
before Administrative Law Judge Kelly Wilson (“the
ALJ”) on October 7, 2015. See AR. 39-88. On
January 29, 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. 19-38. The ALJ
found insufficient cause to reopen a previous decision, which
is now administratively final. See AR. 89-114,
plaintiff's Opening Brief, plaintiff raises the following
issues: (1) Whether the ALJ failed to fully and fairly
develop the record; (2) Whether the ALJ improperly applied
the Chavez Acquiescence Ruling and res
judicata; (3) Whether the ALJ properly evaluated the
medical evidence; (4) Whether the ALJ properly evaluated
plaintiff's testimony; (5) Whether the ALJ properly
evaluated the lay evidence; and (6) Whether the ALJ properly
assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) and erred by basing her step five finding
on her erroneous RFC assessment. See Dkt. 10, p. 2.
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 (9th Cir. 2005)
(citing Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th
Court will address the dispositive issues first, then
evaluate the remaining issues in light of the Court's
decision to remand on the dispositive findings.
Whether the ALJ properly evaluated ...