Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Donnelle S. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

October 9, 2019

DONNELLE S., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS

          David W. Christel, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's (“Commissioner”) denial of Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73 and Local Rule MJR 13, the parties have consented to have this matter heard by the undersigned Magistrate Judge. See Dkt. 2.

         After considering the record, the Court concludes the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in evaluating Plaintiff's non-severe impairments at step two of the sequential evaluation. Had the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's impairments at step two, the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) may have included additional limitations. The ALJ's error is therefore harmful, and this matter is reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Social Security Commissioner (“Commissioner”) for further proceedings consistent with this Order.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On March 4, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits. See Administrative Record (“AR”) 37, 564-65. On May 26, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for supplementary security income. AR 37, 568-73. In both applications, Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of July 4, 2014. AR 37, 564-65, 658-73. Her applications were denied upon initial administrative review and on reconsideration. AR 37, 498-500, 502-07, 508-13. A hearing was held before ALJ Glenn G. Meyers on October 25, 2016. AR 416-54. In a decision dated March 14, 2018, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. AR 34-52. The Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on December 19, 2018. AR 1-7. The ALJ's decision of March 14, 2018 is the final decision of the Commissioner subject to judicial review. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.

         In her Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ erred by: (1) incorrectly finding several of Plaintiff's impairments non-severe; (2) failing to properly assess opinion evidence from examining psychologist Ellen Walker, Ph.D.; (3) failing to properly evaluate Plaintiff's subjective allegations; (4) not considering the combined effects of Plaintiff's impairments; (5) improperly assessing Plaintiff's RFC; and (6) not resolving an apparent conflict between vocational expert testimony and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) . Dkt. 10, pp. 3-13.[1]

         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 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th Cir. 1999)).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Whether the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's impairments at step two.

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in finding that several of her impairments were either non-medically determinable or non-severe at step two of the sequential evaluation. Dkt. 10, pp. 3-5.

         A. Arthritis.

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff's arthritis was a non-medically determinable impairment. AR 42. The ALJ reasoned that despite Plaintiff's complaints of arthritis in her lower back, right shoulder, hands, hips, and knees, there was no radiographic imaging to substantiate the existence of arthritis in these joints. AR 42. The ALJ also reasoned that even if subsequent imaging did reveal the existence of arthritis, this would not preclude Plaintiff from performing light work, given that she exhibited normal gait and motor strength during physical examinations. AR 42, 755, 916, 1001.

         An impairment is medically determinable only when its existence can be shown through objective medical evidence such as laboratory findings and tests done using acceptable clinical diagnostic techniques. Ukolov v. Barnhart, 420 F.3d 1002, 1005 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Social Security Ruling (“SSR”) 96-4p, 1996 WL 374187, at *1 (July 2, 1996)). “ ‘[R]egardless of how many symptoms an individual alleges, or how genuine the individual's complaints may appear to be, the existence of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment cannot be established in the absence of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.