United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
L. Strombom, United States Magistrate Judge.
has brought this matter for judicial review of
defendant's denial of her applications for disability
insurance and supplemental security income (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 that
defendant's decision to deny benefits should be reversed,
and that this matter should be remanded for further
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
October 10, 2012, plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits, and on October 31, 2012, she
filed another one for SSI benefits, alleging in both
applications that she became disabled beginning January 1,
2012. Dkt. 10, Administrative Record (AR), 12. Both
applications were denied on initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. Id. At a hearing held before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), plaintiff, represented by
counsel, appeared and testified, as did a vocational expert.
AR 32-73. At the hearing, plaintiff amended her alleged onset
date of disability to April 30, 2013. AR 12.
written decision dated September 24, 2014, the ALJ found that
plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in significant
numbers in the national economy, and therefore that she was
not disabled. AR 12-24. On May 20, 2016, the Appeals Council
denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's
decision, making that decision the final decision of the
Commissioner, which plaintiff then appealed in a complaint
with this Court on June 16, 2016. AR 1; Dkt. 1-3; 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.981, § 416.1481.
seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand for an
award of benefits, arguing the ALJ erred:
(1) in evaluating the medical opinion evidence in the record;
(2) in assessing plaintiff's credibility; and
(3) in finding plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy.
reasons set forth below, the Court agrees the ALJ erred in
evaluating the medical opinion evidence, and thus in finding
plaintiff could perform other jobs, but finds remand for
further administrative proceedings is warranted.
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 the Medical ...