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Christopher L. v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 7, 2020

CHRISTOPHER L., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER AND DISMISSING THE CASE

          BRIAN A. TSUCHIDA, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff contends the ALJ improperly pressured him to amend his onset date and abandon his Title II disability claim in violation of his right to due process. Dkt. 13. The record does not support the contention and the Court accordingly AFFIRMS the Commissioner's final decision and DISMISSES the case with prejudice.

         In 2012 and 2104, plaintiff filed applications for disability benefits, alleging disability since May 2009. Tr. 28. Plaintiff's last date insured for Title II benefits is June 30, 2014. Tr. 30. In 2015 ALJ Robert Kingsley found plaintiff not disabled, Tr. 25-46, and the Appeals Council denied review. Tr. 1-7. Plaintiff appealed and in 2017 this Court remanded the case for further proceedings. Tr. 1643-61. On June 18, 2018, plaintiff and counsel appeared for a hearing before ALJ Marilyn Mauer. ALJ Mauer informed plaintiff that “in order to receive Title II disability benefits, you would have to establish, through medical evidence, that you became disabled on or before that date [June 30, 2014].” Tr. 1560. ALJ Mauer also stated to plaintiff and counsel:

By way of limiting the issues, I do find the claimant is currently disabled. However, the earliest onset date for which I find medical evidence of that disability to March 1, 2016, based on the records of Dr. Wheeler. If you wish to pursue - that's the first time I can establish there is a physical impairment that would have interfered at a disabling level of work. If you wish to pursue an earlier date, it would likely have to be on the basis of psychological issues, for which I would require a medical expert. Bearing all this mind, would you like an opportunity to talk to your client?

         Tr. 1561. In response, plaintiff's counsel told the ALJ “Oh, we do want to amend the onset date, by the way to August 19th of 2012.” Tr. 1562. The ALJ then stated “Okay. If you'd like an opportunity to talk to your client, please go ahead and go on out.” Id. Counsel subsequently moved for a cardiologist and ALJ Mauer stated “I can ask for one but they're not just going to give me Dr. Yao, you know.” Tr. 1563.

         The record shows the following ensued:

ATTY: “I don't know how good - he would like to accept the partial -”
ALJ: “All right. So you're withdrawing your application for Title II benefits sir?”
CLMNT: “Yes.”
ALJ: “And you understand that means that you're giving up all Title II Benefits, and you're giving up your claim to any Social Security Benefits before March 1, 2016?
CLMNT: “Yes.”
ATTY: “Can you give me an extra three months?”
ALJ: “This is not Let's Make a Deal, Ms. ...

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