United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
MATTHEW J. MENDIETA, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING CASE FOR FURTHER
C. COUGHENOUR United States District Judge
J. Mendieta seeks review of the denial of his application for
Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance
Benefits. Mr. Mendieta contends the Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) erred in evaluating the medical opinions of Jessica B.
Misner, M.D., David Widlan, Ph.D., Alex Fisher, Ph.D. and
Gary L. Nelson, Ph.D. Dkt. 11. Mr. Mendieta contends that
these errors resulted in a residual functional capacity (RFC)
determination that failed to account for all of his
limitations. Id. Mr. Mendieta further contends that
this matter should be reversed and remanded for further
administrative proceedings. Dkt. 11 at 16. As discussed
below, the Court REVERSES the Commissioner's final
decision and REMANDS the matter for further administrative
proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
October 30, 2010, Mr. Mendieta filed a Title II application
for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits
and on October 17, 2012, filed a Title XVI application for
Supplemental Security Income. Tr. 19, 231-51. Both
applications allege disability as of April 12, 2010.
Id. Mr. Mendieta's applications were denied
initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 76-155. After the ALJ
conducted a hearing on December 10, 2013, the ALJ issued a
decision finding Mr. Mendieta not disabled. Tr. 19, 40-75.
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Mr. Mendieta has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since April 12, 2010, the
alleged onset date.
Step two: Mr. Mendieta has the following
severe impairments: impaired strength in bilateral upper and
lower extremities with no established etiology; impaired
proprioception; pain and neuropathy in lower extremities
without etiology; alcohol abuse with related insomnia;
moderate depression; and anxiety.
Step three: These impairments do not meet or
equal the requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Mr. Mendieta
can perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) with some exceptions. He can lift
and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently, and can stand and/or walk about six hours, and
sit about six hours, in an eight-hour day with normal breaks.
He can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, can
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and
stairs and can frequently balance. He is able to tolerate
occasional exposure to vibrating tools, machines and
vehicles, should avoid dust, fumes, odors, gases, and poor
ventilation, and should avoid hazardous working conditions
such as proximity to unprotected heights and moving
machinery. He is limited to tasks that can be learned in one
year or less, is able to adapt to a predictable work routine
with no more than occasional changes, and is limited to
occasional and superficial interaction with the general
Step four: Mr. Mendieta can perform past
relevant work as a buyer.
Step five: Alternatively, as there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that Mr. Mendieta can perform, he is not disabled.
Tr. 19-33. The Appeals Council denied Mr. Mendieta's
request for review making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1-4.
A. Medical Evidence
general, more weight should be given to the opinion of a
treating physician than to a non-treating physician, and more
weight to the opinion of an examining physician than to a
nonexamining physician. See Lester v. Chater, 81
F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1996). Where a treating or examining
doctor's opinion is not contradicted by another doctor,
it may be rejected only for clear and convincing reasons.
Id. Where contradicted, a treating or examining
physician's opinion may not be rejected without
“specific and legitimate reasons supported by
substantial evidence in the record for so doing.”
Id. at 830-31. “An ALJ can satisfy the
‘substantial evidence' requirement by
‘setting out a detailed and thorough summary of the
facts and conflicting clinical evidence, stating his
interpretation thereof, and making findings.'”
Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1011 (9th Cir.
2014) (quoting Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 725
(9th Cir. 1998)). “The Commissioner may reject the
opinion of a non-examining physician by reference to specific
evidence in the medical record.” Sousa v.
Callahan, 143 F.3d 1240, 1244 (9th Cir. 1998).