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Elizabeth C. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

April 8, 2019

ELIZABETH C., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MICHELLE L. PETERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff seeks review of the denial of her applications for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits. Plaintiff contends the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) erred by denying Plaintiff's request to cross-examine the State agency medical consultants; rejecting the medical opinions of examining psychologists Dr. Wheeler and Dr. Krueger; failing to identify Plaintiff's panic disorder as a severe impairment at step two; and discounting Plaintiff's testimony about the severity of her symptoms. (Dkt. # 10 at 1.) As discussed below, the Court recommends that the Commissioner's final decision be REVERSED and the case REMANDED for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born in 1982 and earned an Associate in Technical Arts degree over the course of four years. AR at 84. She has worked full-time at Wal-Mart in the past as an overnight merchandise stocker. AR at 80, 83. Plaintiff was last gainfully employed in 2010. AR at 83.

         On February 5, 2015, Plaintiff applied for benefits, alleging disability as of September 29, 2014. AR at 24, 26, 237-45. Her date last insured on her Title II application was March 31, 2017. AR at 26. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on reconsideration, and Plaintiff requested a hearing. AR at 24. After the ALJ conducted a hearing on February 8, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. AR at 21-43.

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [1] the ALJ found:

Step one: Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 29, 2014, the alleged onset date.
Step two: Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, asthma, affective disorder, anxiety disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the requirements of a listed impairment.[2]
Residual Functional Capacity: Plaintiff can perform light work, defined as work that involves lifting and carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently and standing and/or walking for up to 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. She is unable to work in an occupation that involves fast-paced production demands, such as a rigid quota system. She cannot work in a dangerous industrial setting, performing commercial driving, or working at unprotected heights. She is unable to operate foot controls and must not be exposed to temperature or humidity extremes, due to asthma. The claimant requires a regular work schedule with a lunch period to accommodate a diabetic regimen. She is able to tolerate no more than routine, perfunctory social interactions and cannot travel to unfamiliar local places more than once in a while. She retains previously learned information but regarding learning new material, she is limited to learning simple to moderately detailed information or not more than 5-6 steps. The claimant requires a bathroom on set for use during regularly scheduled breaks. She is capable of working independently, with no more than occasional interaction with supervisors.
Step four: Plaintiff does not have past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, Plaintiff is not disabled.

AR at 21-43.

         As the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, the ALJ's decision is the Commissioner's final decision. AR at 1-5. Plaintiff appealed the final decision of the Commissioner to this Court. (Dkt. # 4.)

         III. ...


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