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Chambers v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

May 6, 2019

APRIL CHAMBERS., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DENIAL OF BENEFITS

          ROBERT J. BRYAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff April C. seeks review of the denial of her application for supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits. Plaintiff contends the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in evaluating the opinions of Curtis Greenfield, Psy.D., and Bryan Zolnikov, Ph.D. Pl. Op. Br. (Dkt. # 9) at 1. As discussed below, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the matter for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         This is the fourth time this matter has been before the Court. Plaintiff filed for SSI benefits on February 18, 2010. Administrative Record (“AR”) (Dkt. # 7) at 72, 137-40. Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of October 1, 1999. Id. at 137. The Social Security Administration denied her claims initially and on reconsideration. Id. at 69-73.

         On March 13, 2012, following a hearing, ALJ Rebekah Ross issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claim for disability benefits. Id. at 20-30. The Appeals Council denied review, and Plaintiff sought review before this Court. See Id. at 685-87.

         On October 7, 2014, Judge Barbara Rothstein entered an order adopting the report and recommendation from Magistrate Judge Karen Strombom. Id. at 671-84. The Court reversed and remanded the matter for further administrative proceedings, finding that ALJ Ross erred in evaluating the opinions of examining doctors Aaron Hunt, M.D., and Mary Lemberg, M.D. Id.

         The matter was again heard by an ALJ on August 11, 2015. Id. at 604-45. ALJ Robert Kingsley at that time took testimony from medical expert Herbert Tanenhaus, M.D. Id. at 609-26, 889. On October 8, 2015, ALJ Kingsley issued a decision again denying Plaintiff's claim for disability benefits. Id. at 581-97. Plaintiff returned to this Court for review. See Id. at 993-1001.

         On June 6, 2016, Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida issued a decision reversing and remanding ALJ Kingsley's decision. Id. Magistrate Judge Tsuchida found that ALJ Kingsley did not err in discounting the opinions of Dr. Hunt and Dr. Lemberg, correcting ALJ Ross's errors. See Id. at 995-98. Magistrate Judge Tsuchida found, however, that ALJ Kingsley erred in discounting the opinions of examining psychologist Alex Crampton. Psy.D. Id. at 998-1001.

         ALJ Kelly Wilson held a third hearing on October 21, 2016. Id. at 935-66. On January 5, 2017, ALJ Wilson issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claim for disability benefits. Id. at 901-27. Yet again, Plaintiff sought this Court's review. See Id. at 1302-04.

         On August 28, 2017, the undersigned issued a decision reversing ALJ Wilson's decision and remanding the matter for further administrative proceedings. Id. at 1306-12. The undersigned held that ALJ Wilson did not err in discounting Dr. Crampton's opinions, but did err in evaluating the opinions of examining psychologist Curtis Greenfield, Psy.D. Id.

         On remand, ALJ Andrew Grace again denied Plaintiff's claim for disability benefits. See Id. at 1203-33.

         B. The ALJ's Decision

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, 20 C.F.R. § 416.920, ALJ Grace found that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since February 18, 2010, the disability application date. Id. ALJ Grace determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c), except that she was limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks; low stress work, meaning work requiring few decisions or changes; no public contact; occasional superficial contact with coworkers; occasional contact with supervisors; and work that could be performed at a standard, as opposed to strict production ...


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