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Ingrid F. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

April 24, 2019

INGRID F., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, 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 Notice of Initial Assignment to a U.S. Magistrate Judge and Consent Form, Dkt. 1; Consent to Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 2. This matter has been fully briefed. See Dkts. 14, 17, 18.

         After considering and reviewing the record, the Court concludes that the ALJ did not err by determining that it was not necessary to consult a medical expert regarding whether or not plaintiff equaled a listing for her heart condition. The regulations afford the ALJ discretion in determining whether or not to consult a medical expert, and a prior district court decision did not order the ALJ to do so. The ALJ gave at least one clear and convincing reason for rejecting plaintiff's subjective complaints, noting that her heart condition improved with treatment. Finally, the ALJ's step four and step five findings are not inconsistent, because the ALJ properly relied on vocational expert testimony that plaintiff could not do her past work as a hand packager, but was capable of performing her past work as a cashier.

         Accordingly, this matter is affirmed pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423 (Title II) of the Social Security Act was denied initially and following reconsideration. See AR. 48, 56. Plaintiff's initial hearing was held in September, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge Cynthia Rosa (“the ALJ”), who denied plaintiff's claim. AR. 8, 23. The Appeals Council denied review of plaintiff's claim, and plaintiff subsequently appealed to the district court, who reversed and remanded plaintiff's claim. AR. 1, 874.

         Plaintiff's second hearing was again held before ALJ Rosa on October 14, 2015. AR. 812. On February 26, 2016, the ALJ issued a written decision in which the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled pursuant to the Social Security Act. AR.792.

         On February 13, 2017, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, making the written decision by the ALJ the final agency decision subject to judicial review. AR. 785-86; see 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the ALJ's written decision in September 2018. Dkt. 1. Defendant filed the sealed administrative record regarding this matter (“AR.”) on December 17, 2018. Dkt. 10.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Ingrid F., was born in 1964 and was 43 years old on the alleged disability onset date of December 15, 2007. AR. 49. Plaintiff completed high school and has past work history as a cashier and in packaging. AR. 145-46. Plaintiff states that she stopped working because of her conditions. AR. 145.

         Plaintiff filed her claim alleging heart problems and diabetes. AR. 49. According to the ALJ, plaintiff has at least the severe impairments of rheumatic mitral valve stenosis, status-post valvuloplasty, and mitral valve replacement. AR. 798.

         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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