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Harrington v. Saul

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

December 18, 2019

KELLIE K. HARRINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER RE SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY APPEAL

          Mary Alice Theiler United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Kellie K. Harrington proceeds through counsel in her appeal of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner). After a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the Commissioner denied plaintiff's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB). Having considered the ALJ's decision, the administrative record (AR), and all memoranda, this matter is AFFIRMED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff was born on XXXX, 1971.[1] She obtained her GED and previously worked as a bartender, cashier, waitress, deli worker, caterer helper, and babysitter. (AR 286, 958.)

         Plaintiff filed SSI and DIB applications in October and November of 2011, alleging disability beginning February 28, 2006. (AR 254, 261.) She remained insured for DIB through June 30, 2009 and was required to establish disability on or prior to that “date last insured” (DLI) to receive DIB. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.131, 404.321. Her applications were denied initially and on reconsideration.

         ALJ Timothy Mangrum held a hearing, taking testimony from plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) (AR 29-53), and issued a decision dated October 29, 2013 (AR 12-23). He found a June 29, 2009 decision by ALJ Catherine Lazuran denying 2006 SSI and DIB applications (see AR 57-66) administratively final and the doctrine of res judicata to apply. However, considering Chavez v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 691 (9th Cir. 1988), and Acquiescence Ruling (AR) 97-4(9), ALJ Mangrum found the presumption of continuing non-disability resulting from the prior unfavorable decision rebutted by new medical evidence and noted plaintiff had amended her alleged disability onset date to June 30, 2009, the day after ALJ Lazuran's decision. The ALJ thereafter concluded plaintiff was not disabled from February 28, 2006 through the date of the decision.

         Plaintiff timely appealed, the Appeals Council denied review (AR 1), and this Court subsequently reversed and remanded based on a stipulation of the parties. (AR 681-82.) The Appeals Council remanded the matter (AR 685-86) and ALJ Mangrum held another hearing, taking testimony from plaintiff and a VE (AR 621-50). In a decision dated June 23, 2017, ALJ Mangrum issued a partially favorable decision, finding plaintiff not disabled or entitled to DIB at any time through her June 30, 2009 DLI, not disabled prior to October 31, 2011, the date of her SSI application, but that plaintiff became disabled and entitled to SSI as of that date. (AR 605-13.) Plaintiff appealed to this Court and, by Order dated August 29, 2018, the Court affirmed the finding of disability beginning October 31, 2011 and remanded for further administrative proceedings in relation to plaintiff's DIB claim, as described further below. (AR 993-1008.)

         On remand, the Appeals Council affirmed the finding of disability as of October 31, 2011 and remanded the remaining matter to a different ALJ to take any further action needed to complete the record and to issue a decision on the issue of disability before October 31, 2011. (AR 1014.) On remand, ALJ Larry Kennedy did not find it necessary to hold a new hearing given that the only issue was analysis of plaintiff's DIB claim. (See AR 951.) In a December 27, 2018 decision, ALJ Kennedy found plaintiff not disabled through her June 30, 2009 DLI. (AR 950-60.) Plaintiff appealed this final decision of the Commissioner to this Court.

         JURISDICTION

         The Court has jurisdiction to review the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         DISCUSSION

         The Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether a claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920 (2000). At step one, it must be determined whether the claimant is gainfully employed. The ALJ found plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date through the DLI.

         At step two, it must be determined whether a claimant suffers from a severe impairment. The ALJ found, through the DLI, plaintiff had severe impairments of anxiety disorder, personality disorder, and alcohol abuse disorder. Step three asks whether a claimant's impairments meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal a listing.

         If the impairments do not meet or equal a listing, the Commissioner must assess RFC and determine at step four whether the claimant has demonstrated an inability to perform past relevant work. The ALJ found, through the DLI, plaintiff had the RFC to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but with the following non-exertional limitations: able to do work involving simple, repetitive tasks and some detailed tasks; not involving much exercise of judgment or decision making; involving minimal interaction with coworkers or supervisors and occasional to minimal interaction ...


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