United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
GEORGEA L. PRESSLEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY
L. ROBART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Georgea L. Pressley seeks review of the denial of her
application for supplemental security income and disability
insurance benefits. (See Complaint (Dkt. # 1).) Ms.
Pressley contends that the Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") erred by (1) failing to find her
degenerative joint disease of the knees a severe impairment
at step two of the disability evaluation process; (2)
improperly rejecting the opinions of Monica Carillo, M.D.
regarding standing and walking limitations, as well as knee
pain and limitations; (3) improperly rejecting Ms.
Pressley's testimony at her most recent
hearing; and (4) incorrectly assessing Ms.
Pressley's residual functional capacity ("RFC")
and ability to perform past work. (PL Op. Br. at 1, 12.) As
discussed below, the court AFFIRMS the final decision of
Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill (the "Commissioner")
and DISMISSES the case with prejudice.
the third time this case is before the court. Ms. Pressley
originally filed for disability benefits on October 17, 2007,
alleging that her disability began on February 1, 2006.
(See Admin. Record ("AR") (Dkt. # 9) at
68-69, 145.) Her claims were denied initially and on
reconsideration in 2008. (Id. at 68-71.) ALJ John
Bauer conducted a hearing on January 14, 2010. (Id.
at 29.) On February 18, 2010, ALJ Bauer issued a decision
denying Ms. Pressley benefits. (Id. at 22.) The
Appeals Council denied review. (Id. at 1-5.)
August 16, 2011, Chief Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida issued
a report and recommendation ("R&R") reversing
ALJ Bauer's decision and remanding the matter with
directions to the ALJ to reassess Ms. Pressley's severe
impairments; reassess the medical opinions of Dr. Monica
Carillo, M.D., Dr. Susan Hakeman, M.D., and the state agency
medical consultants; reevaluate Ms. Pressley's
credibility; and redo the five-step disability evaluation
process as necessary. (Id. at 682-98.) Chief Judge
Ricardo Martinez adopted the R&R on September 23, 2011.
(Id. at 68l.)
remand, ALJ Larry Kennedy conducted a hearing on May 9, 2012.
(Id. at 564.) On August 29, 2012, ALJ Kennedy issued
a decision once again denying Ms. Pressley benefits.
(Id. at 550.)
15, 2014, Judge Marsha Pechman issued an order, based on an
R&R from Magistrate Judge Tsuchida, once again reversing
the ALJ's decision. (Id. at
1484-1504.)This time, the court held that the ALJ
erred (1) in failing to discuss whether Ms. Pressley's
knee arthritis was a severe impairment at step two; and (2)
in failing to discuss Dr. Carillo's January 2012 opinion.
(Id. at 1488-91, 1500-01.) But the court determined
that the ALJ did not err (1) in finding that Ms.
Pressley's hand impairment was not a severe impairment at
step two; (2) in finding that Ms. Pressley was not fully
credible; (3) in rejecting Dr. Carillo's January 2010 and
2011 opinions; and (4) in rejecting Dr. Hakeman's
opinions. (Id. at 1488-1503.) The court ordered the
ALJ on remand to "consider whether Ms. Pressley has a
severe impairment of degenerative joint disease affecting her
knees, reevaluate Dr. Carillo's January 11, 2012
report... and, as necessary, reevaluate the medical opinion
evidence of record." (Id. at 1503.)
Kennedy conducted the most recent hearing on June 8, 2015.
(Id. at 1363.) On February 3, 2016, ALJ Kennedy
issued a decision again denying Ms. Pressley benefits.
(Id. at 1348.)
The ALJ's Decision
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
one: Ms. Pressley has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since February 1, 2006, the alleged onset
two: Ms. Pressley has the following severe
impairments: lumbar spine degenerative disc disease; obesity;
mild degenerative changes of the left hand; hypertension;
hyperthyroidism; reactive depression; and anxiety disorder.
three: Ms, Pressley does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.925 and
Functional Capacity: Ms. Pressley can perform light
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b), except that she can occasionally balance, stoop,
kneel and crouch; never climb scaffolds, ropes, ladders,
ramps, or stairs; and can never crawl. She is able to perform
frequent fingering with the left hand. She must avoid
concentrated exposure to vibrations and hazards such as
unenclosed and unprotected heights. She can perform simple,
routine tasks, and follow short, simple instructions, and can
do work that involves little or no judgment. She has an
average ability to perform sustained work activities within
customary tolerances regarding sick leave and absences. She
can have occasional interactions with coworkers and
supervisors, but not in a cooperative or team effort. She can
have incidental contact only with the general public.
four: Ms. Pressley is capable of performing past
relevant work as a housekeeper. This work does not require
the performance of work-related activities precluded by her
residual functional capacity.
(AR at 1334-48.) Ms. Pressley filed written exceptions to the
ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council. (Id. at
1322-28.) The Appeals Council declined jurisdiction on
October 24, 2016, rendering ALJ ...