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 application for 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 administrative proceedings.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
January 24, 2013, plaintiff filed an application for SSI
benefits, alleging she became disabled beginning March 1,
2012. Dkt. 16, Administrative Record (AR) 12. That
application was denied on initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. Id. At a hearing held before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), plaintiff appeared and
testified, as did a vocational expert. AR 28-76.
written decision May 22, 2015, the ALJ found plaintiff could
perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy, and therefore that she was not disabled. AR
12-22. On May 20, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
plaintiff's request for review of that decision, making
it the final decision of the Commissioner, which plaintiff
then appealed in a complaint filed with this Court on Augut
1, 2016. AR 1; Dkt. 3; 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.
seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand for an
award of benefits, or in the alternative for further
administrative proceedings, arguing the ALJ erred:
(1) in evaluating the opinion evidence from Mounir Soliman,
M.D., Terilee Wingate, Ph.D., Daniel Niems, Psy.D., and Lyn
Hertz, MA, LMHC;
(2) in rejecting plaintiff's subjective complaints;
(4) in assessing plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(5) in finding plaintiff could perform other jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy.
reasons set forth below, the Court agrees that the ALJ erred
in evaluating the opinion evidence from Dr. Soliman and Ms.
Hertz, and therefore in assessing plaintiff's RFC and in
finding she could perform other jobs. Also for the reasons
set forth below, however, remand for further administrative
proceedings, rather than an award of benefits, 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
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 ...