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Lisa E. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 21, 2019

LISA E., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DENIAL OF BENEFITS

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. BASIC DATA

         Type of Benefits Sought:

         (X) Disability Insurance

         () Supplemental Security Income Plaintiff's:

         Sex: Female

         Age: 36 at the time of alleged disability onset.

         Principal Disabilities Alleged by Plaintiff: Congestive heart failure, depression, anxiety. See Admin. Record (“AR”) at 188.

         Disability Allegedly Began: May 18, 2009

         Principal Previous Work Experience: Retail sales clerk, nursery school attendant, jewelry salesperson, receptionist, pharmacy technician, courier, children's attendant.

         Education Level Achieved by Plaintiff: Some college.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY-ADMINISTRATIVE

         This is the third time this case has been before the Court. Plaintiff first applied for benefits on May 21, 2009. AR at 95, 160-66. The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied Plaintiff's claims on initial review and on reconsideration. Id. at 95-96. Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Mattie Harvin-Woode held a hearing on Plaintiff's claims on June 6, 2011. Id. at 27-94. On August 22, 2011, ALJ Harvin-Woode issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claims. Id. at 11-22. The Appeals Council denied review, and Plaintiff sought review in this Court. Id. at 1-3, 956-58.

         On February 3, 2014, Chief Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida issued a decision reversing and remanding the case for further administrative proceedings. Id. at 966-74. Judge Tsuchida held that the ALJ erred in rejecting medical opinions from David Linker, M.D., David Jarvis, M.D., and James Czysz, Psy.D. Id. at 966-71. Judge Tsuchida held that the ALJ did not err in discounting Plaintiff's testimony. Id. at 971-74. Judge Tsuchida ordered on remand that the ALJ reassess the opinions of Dr. Linker, Dr. Jarvis, and Dr. Czysz, reassess Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) as necessary, and reconsider the other evidence as appropriate. Id. at 974.

         On remand, ALJ Laura Valente held a second hearing. Id. at 887-928. ALJ Valente then issued a decision, dated August 19, 2015, again denying Plaintiff's claim for benefits. Id. at 802-17. The Appeals Council did not assume jurisdiction, and Plaintiff again sought review in this Court. Id. at 1649-52.

         On May 26, 2017, Magistrate Judge James Donohue issued a decision reversing and remanding the case for further administrative proceedings. Id. at 1654-66. Judge Donohue held that the ALJ erred in rejecting Dr. Jarvis's opinions. Id. at 1661-62. Judge Donohue held that the ALJ did not err in rejecting Dr. Linker and Dr. Czysz's opinions. Id. at 1663-64. Judge Donohue further held that Plaintiff had not shown ALJ error in discounting other medical opinions, including that of David Widlan, Ph.D. Id. at 1664. Judge Donohue ordered on remand that the ALJ reconsider Dr. Jarvis's opinion and Plaintiff's RFC. Id. at 1666.

         ALJ Valente held a third hearing in this matter on May 1, 2018. Id. at 1583-91. At that hearing, Plaintiff's counsel reported that he was still waiting on medical records from the University of Washington and Providence, and work-related records from Fred Meyer. Id. at 1586-87. ALJ Valente thus rescheduled the hearing, which took place four and a half months later, on September 20, 2018. Id. at 1592-1615. The summary below relates to this last hearing and the decision that followed.

         Before ALJ:

Date of Hearing: September 20, 2018
Date of Decision: December 4, 2018
Appears in Record at: AR at 1519-33
Summary of Decision:
The claimant last met the insured requirements of the Social Security Act on March 31, 2017.
The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful activity from her alleged onset date of May 18, 2009, through her date last insured of March 31, 2017. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571-76.
Through the date last insured, the claimant had the following severe impairments: History of ischemic cardiomyopathy, history of complex congenital heart defects status post multiple surgical procedures, mid congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, asthma, sleep apnea, degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, thoracic outlet syndrome in the non-dominant left upper extremity, migraines, affective disorders variously diagnosed as depression and dysthymic disorder, and ...

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