United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY
L. Strombom United States Magistrate Judge
has brought this matter for judicial review of
defendant's denial of his applications for disability
insurance and supplemental security (SSI) benefits. The
parties have consented to have this matter heard by the
undersigned Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73; Local Rule MJR 13. For
the reasons set forth below, the Court finds defendant's
decision to deny benefits should be affirmed.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
April 26, 2012, plaintiff filed an application for disability
insurance benefits and another one for SSI benefits, alleging
in both applications that he became disabled beginning
October 1, 2009. Dkt. 9, Administrative Record (AR) 16. That
application was denied on initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. Id.
hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), at
which plaintiff appeared and testified, as did a vocational
expert. AR 39-100. In a written decision dated January 27,
2015, the ALJ found that plaintiff could perform other jobs
existing in significant numbers in the national economy, and
therefore that he was not disabled. AR 16-32. On June 15,
2016, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for
review of that decision, making it the Commissioner's
final decision, which plaintiff then appealed in a complaint
filed with this Court on July 28, 2016. AR 1; Dkt. 1; 20
C.F.R. § 404.981, § 416.1481.
seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand for
payment of benefits, arguing the ALJ erred in rejecting the
opinion of Mark Wentworth, M.D., and in assessing
plaintiff's credibility. For the reasons set forth below,
however, the Court disagrees that the ALJ erred as alleged,
and thus finds the decision to deny benefits should be
Commissioner's determination that a claimant is not
disabled must be upheld if the “proper legal
standards” have been applied, and the
“substantial evidence in the record as a whole
supports” that determination. Hoffman v.
Heckler, 785 F.2d 1423, 1425 (9th Cir. 1986); see
also Batson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d
1190, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004); Carr v. Sullivan, 772
F.Supp. 522, 525 (E.D. Wash. 1991). “A decision
supported by substantial evidence nevertheless will be set
aside if the proper legal standards were not applied in
weighing the evidence and making the decision.”
Carr, 772 F.Supp. at 525 (citing Brawner v.
Sec'y of Health and Human Sers., 839 F.2d 432, 433
(9th Cir. 1987)). Substantial evidence is “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation omitted);
see also Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193.
Commissioner's findings will be upheld “if
supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the
record.” Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193. Substantial
evidence requires the Court to determine whether the
Commissioner's determination is “supported by more
than a scintilla of evidence, although less than a
preponderance of the evidence is required.”
Sorenson v. Weinberger, 514 F.2d 1112, 1119 n.10
(9th Cir. 1975). “If the evidence admits of more than
one rational interpretation, ” that decision must be
upheld. Allen v. Heckler, 749 F.2d 577, 579 (9th
Cir. 1984). That is, “[w]here there is conflicting
evidence sufficient to support either outcome, ” the
Court “must affirm the decision actually made.”
Allen, 749 F.2d at 579 (quoting Rhinehart v.
Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th Cir. 1971)).
The ALJ's Evaluation of Dr. Wentworth's
is responsible for determining credibility and resolving
ambiguities and conflicts in the medical evidence.
Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 722 (9th Cir.
1998). Where the evidence is inconclusive, “questions
of credibility and resolution of conflicts are functions
solely of the [ALJ].” Sample v. Schweiker, 694
F.2d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 1982). In such situations, “the
ALJ's conclusion must be upheld.” Morgan v.
Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 601
(9th Cir. 1999). Determining whether inconsistencies in the
evidence “are material (or are in fact inconsistencies
at all) and whether certain factors are relevant to
discount” medical opinions “falls within this
responsibility.” Id. at 603.
resolving questions of credibility and conflicts in the
evidence, an ALJ's findings “must be supported by
specific, cogent reasons.” Reddick, 157 F.3d
at 725. The ALJ can do this “by setting out a detailed
and thorough summary of the facts and conflicting clinical
evidence, stating his interpretation thereof, and making
findings.” Id. The ALJ also may draw
inferences “logically flowing from the evidence.”
Sample, 694 F.2d at 642. Further, the Court itself
may draw “specific and legitimate inferences from the
ALJ's opinion.” Magallanes v. Bowen, 881
F.2d 747, 755, (9th Cir. 1989).
must provide “clear and convincing” reasons for
rejecting the uncontradicted opinion of either a treating or
examining physician. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821,
830 (9th Cir. 1996). Even when a treating or examining
physician's opinion is contradicted, that opinion
“can only be rejected for specific and legitimate
reasons that are supported by substantial evidence in the
record.” Id. at 830-31. However, the ALJ
“need not discuss all evidence
presented” to him or her. Vincent on Behalf of
Vincent v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1393, 1394-95 (9th Cir.
1984) (citation omitted) (emphasis in original). The ALJ must
only explain why “significant probative evidence has
been rejected.” Id.; see also Cotter v.
Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 706-07 (3rd Cir. 1981);
Garfield v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 605, 610 (7th Cir.
general, more weight is given to a treating physician's
opinion than to the opinions of those who do not treat the
claimant. See Lester, 81 F.3d at 830. On the other
hand, an ALJ need not accept the opinion of a treating
physician, “if that opinion is brief, conclusory, and
inadequately supported by clinical findings” or
“by the record as a whole.” Batson v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1195 (9th
Cir. 2004); see also Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d
947, 957 (9th Cir. 2002); Tonapetyan v. Halter, 242
F.3d 1144, 1149 (9th Cir. 2001). An examining physician's
opinion is “entitled to greater weight than the opinion
of a nonexamining physician.” Lester, 81 F.3d
at 830-31. A ...