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
September 16, 2012 plaintiff filed an application for
supplemental security income, alleging disability as of June
1, 2011. See Dkt. 10, Administrative Record
(“AR”) 20. Her application was denied upon
initial administrative review on February 21, 2013, and on
reconsideration on April 25, 2013. See Id. A hearing
was held before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) on October 1, 2014, at which plaintiff,
represented by counsel, appeared and testified, as did
William H. Weiss, an impartial vocational expert.
See AR 20-60.
decision dated February 4, 2015, the ALJ determined plaintiff
to be not disabled. See AR 20-32. Plaintiff's
request for review of the ALJ's decision was denied by
the Appeals Council on June 30, 2016, making that decision
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(the “Commissioner”). See AR 1-3; 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. 4. The administrative record was filed with the Court on
November 14, 2016. See Dkt. 10. 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 evaluating the medical evidence from Paresi
Kahirimbanyi, M.D., and Richard Peterson;
(2) in failing to conduct a proper step three analysis;
(3) in discounting plaintiff's credibility; and
(4) in failing to meet her step five burden.
reasons set forth below, the Court agrees the ALJ erred in
assigning minimal weight to Dr. Kahirimbanyi and Dr.
Peterson's medical opinions and in discounting
plaintiff's credibility. Because of those errors, the ALJ
erred as well in assessing plaintiff's RFC and in finding
she could perform other jobs. However, the Court finds
reversal and remand for further administrative proceedings,
rather than an award for benefits, on this basis is
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 ...