United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge.
David Poulin filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), for judicial review of Defendant's denial of
Plaintiff's applications for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73 and Local Rule MJR 13, the
parties have consented to have this matter heard by the
undersigned Magistrate Judge. See Dkt. 6.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred when he
failed to properly consider the medical opinion evidence of
treating physicians Drs. Nicholas Heath, DPM and Douglas
Beaman, MD and treating nurses Victoria Wright, ARNP and
Bruce Lanum, ARNP. Had the ALJ properly considered this
medical opinion evidence, the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) may have included additional limitations.
The ALJ's error is therefore harmful, and this matter is
reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) to the Commissioner for further proceedings
consistent with this Order.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
23, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI and DIB,
alleging disability as of May 5, 2013. See Dkt. 9,
Administrative Record (“AR”) 196-203, 217. The
application was denied upon initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. See AR 107-123. A hearing was
held before ALJ James W. Sherry on February 12, 2015.
See AR 11. In a decision dated March 25, 2015, the
ALJ determined Plaintiff to be not disabled. See AR
11-21. Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's
decision was denied by the Appeals Council, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
See AR 2-4; 20 C.F.R. § 404.981, §
Plaintiff's Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ
erred when he failed to: (1) provide specific and legitimate
reasons for rejecting the opinions of Drs. Nicholas Heath,
DPM and Douglas Beaman, MD; (2) provide germane reasons for
rejecting the opinions of Nurses Victoria Wright, ARNP and
Bruce Lanum, ARNP; (3) provide clear and convincing reasons
for rejecting Plaintiff's testimony; and (4) meet the
burden of showing there were other jobs in the national
economy Plaintiff could perform. Dkt. 11, p. 1.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits if the
ALJ's findings are based on legal error or not supported
by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Bayliss
v. Barnhart, 427 F.3d 1211, 1214 n.1 (9th Cir. 2005)
(citing Tidwell v. Apfel, 161 F.3d 599, 601 (9th
Whether the ALJ properly weighed the medical
Drs. Nicholas Heath, DPM and Douglas Beaman, MD, and
Nurse Bruce Lanum, ARNP
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) (citing Embrey v. Bowen, 849
F.2d 418, 422 (9th Cir. 1988); Pitzer v. Sullivan,
908 F.2d 502, 506 (9th Cir. 1990)). When a treating or
examining physician's opinion is contradicted, the
opinion can be rejected “for specific and legitimate
reasons that are supported by substantial evidence in the
record.” Lester, 81 F.3d at 830-31 (citing
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1043 (9th Cir. 1995);
Murray v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 499, 502 (9th Cir.
1983)). The ALJ can accomplish this by “setting out a
detailed and thorough summary of the facts and conflicting
clinical evidence, stating his interpretation thereof, and
making findings.” Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d
715, 725 (9th Cir. 1998) (citing Magallanes v.
Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 751 (9th Cir. 1989)).
treating podiatrist, Dr. Nicholas Heath, provided an opinion
letter in response to a request from Plaintiff's
representative on July 22, 2014. AR 365-368. Dr. Heath opined
that as a result of Plaintiff's injuries, Plaintiff has
continued to suffer from severe pain in his feet at a level
that interferes with his focus and from ongoing swelling of
his lower extremities to the point he was instructed to
elevate his feet several times per day for one and a half to
two hours. AR 365-6. Dr. Heath further opined that
Plaintiff's complaints are consistent with his diagnosis
and, on a more likely than not basis, Plaintiff would be
absent three or more days per month if he were to perform
full-time work at any exertional level. AR 367. Dr. Heath
specifically provided Plaintiff “will have chronic pain
that will require rest often with his daily
activities.” Id. Plaintiff's treating
orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Douglas Beaman, affirmed and agreed
with Dr. Heath's opinion in its entirety. AR 460-62.
Bruce Lanum, ARNP also affirmed and agreed with Dr.
Heath's opinion in its entirety. AR 609-11.
gave little weight to Drs. Heath and Beaman and Nurse
Lanum's opinions finding their opinions were inconsistent
(1) with the totality of the evidence in the record; and ...