United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
SARA J. OLIVERSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
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 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
January 27, 2010, plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance, alleging she became disabled beginning
July 1, 2008. Dkt. 7, Administrative Record (AR) 11. 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 lay witness and a vocational expert. AR
written decision dated September 21, 2012, the ALJ found that
plaintiff could perform her past relevant work, and therefore
that she was not disabled. AR 123-32. Plaintiff's request
for review was granted by the Appeals Council, which remanded
the matter for further administrative proceedings. AR 141-43.
On remand, a second hearing was held before the same ALJ, at
which plaintiff appeared and testified, as did the same
vocational expert. AR 85-132.
written decision dated March 26, 2015, 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 11-23. On July 29, 2016, the Appeals Council
denied plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's
decision, making it the final decision of the Commissioner,
which plaintiff then appealed in a complaint with this Court
on October 1, 2016. AR 1; Dkt. 1; 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand for an
award of benefits, arguing the ALJ erred:
(1) in evaluating the opinion evidence from Amy Picco, M.D.,
Kristine L. Young, PA-C, Ryan Jeffrey, DC, Leslie Postovoit,
Ph.D., Kent Reade, Ph.D., Jacqueline Farwell, M.D., Dale
Thuline, M.D., Jeremy Biggs, M.D., and Aaron Hunt, M.D.;
(2) in discounting plaintiff's credibility;
(3) in rejecting the lay witness evidence in the record;
(3) in assessing plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(4) 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 opinion evidence from Ms. Young, and therefore
in assessing plaintiff's RFC and in finding she could
perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy. Also for the reasons set forth below,
however, the Court finds remand for further administrative
proceedings, rather than an outright award of benefits, is
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 ...