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 disability
insurance and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) benefits. 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. After reviewing the
parties' briefs and the remaining record, the Court
hereby 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
April 12, 2013 plaintiff filed an application for
supplemental security income, alleging disability as of
November 7, 1994. See Dkt. 9, Administrative Record
(“AR”) 10. Her application was denied upon
initial administrative review on August 16, 2013 and on
reconsideration on February 26, 2014. See Id. A
hearing was held before an administrative law 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 1112 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 Case
3:16-cv-05746-KLS Document 17 Filed 03/31/17 Page 2 of 14
judge (“ALJ”) on October 29, 2014 at which
plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified, as
did Trevor Duncan, an impartial vocational expert.
See AR 30-81.
decision dated April 9, 2015, the ALJ determined plaintiff to
be not disabled. See AR 10-22. Plaintiff's
request for review of the ALJ's decision was denied by
the Appeals Council on June 24, 2016, making that decision
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(the “Commissioner”). See AR 3-4; 20
C.F.R. § 404.981, § 416.1481. On September 2, 2016
plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial
review of the Commissioner's final decision. See
Dkt. 3. The administrative record was filed with the Court on
November 7, 2016. See Dkt. 9. The parties have
completed their briefing, and thus this matter is now ripe
for the Court's review.
argues defendant's decision to deny benefits should be
reversed and remanded for an award of benefits, because the
(1) in discounting plaintiff's credibility; and
(2) in evaluating the medical evidence from Monica Pilarc,
Ph.D., Gene McConnachie, Ph.D., and John Haroian, Ph.D.
reasons set forth below, the Court agrees the ALJ erred in
discounting plaintiff's credibility and assigning minimal
weight to Dr. Pilarc and Dr. McConnachie's medical
opinions, and therefore in determining plaintiff to be not
disabled. However, the Court finds reversal and remand for
further administrative proceedings, rather than an award for
benefits, on this basis is warranted.
Commissioner's determination that a claimant is not
disabled must be upheld by the Court, if the “proper
legal standards” have been applied by the Commissioner,
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. Commissioner of Social Security 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 will,
nevertheless, be set aside if the proper legal standards were
not applied in weighing the evidence and making the
decision.”) (citing Brawner v. Secretary of Health
and Human Services, 839 F.2d 432, 433 (9th Cir. 1987)).
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 (“[T]he Commissioner's findings are upheld if
supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the
record.”). “The substantial evidence test
requires that the reviewing court determine” whether
the Commissioner's decision 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, ” the Commissioner's
decision must be upheld. Allen v. Heckler, 749 F.2d
577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984) (“Where there is conflicting
evidence sufficient to support either outcome, we must affirm
the decision actually made.”) (quoting Rhinehart v.
Finch, 438 F.2d 920, 921 (9th Cir. 1971)).
The ALJ's Evaluation of the Medical Evidence in the
is responsible for determining credibility and resolving
ambiguities and conflicts in the medical evidence. See
Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 722 (9th Cir. 1998). In
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 ...