United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge.
Evans L. Madison, Sr. filed this action, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), for judicial review of Defendant's
denial of his application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”). 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. 8.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) failed to
properly consider the medical opinion evidence of treating
physician Dr. Timothy Joos, M.D. Had the ALJ properly
considered Dr. Joos' opinion, the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) may have included additional
limitations. Therefore, the ALJ's error is harmful and
this matter is reversed and remanded pursuant to sentence
four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner”) for further
proceedings consistent with this Order.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
October 7, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI,
alleging disability as of October 1, 2013. See Dkt.
11, Administrative Record (“AR”) 20. The
application was denied upon initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. See AR 20. A hearing was held
before ALJ Timothy Mangrum on February 26, 2015. See
AR 38-61. In a decision dated April 28, 2015, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff to be not disabled. AR 20-32.
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 1-6, 20 C.F.R. § 404.981, § 416.1481.
Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ failed to: (1)
provide legally sufficient reasons for rejecting the opinion
of treating physician Dr. Timothy Joos, M.D.; (2) provide
specific, clear, and convincing reasons for finding
Plaintiff's subjective testimony not entirely credible;
(3) properly consider the limitation that Plaintiff would be
off-task 10% of the time; and (4) properly find Plaintiff not
disabled at Step Five of the sequential evaluation process.
Dkt. 13, 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 opinion
alleges the ALJ failed to provide legally sufficient reasons
for giving very little weight to the June 2014 opinion of
treating physician Dr. Timothy Joos. Dkt. 13, pp. 4-6. Dr.
Joos also completed a Functional Assessment of Plaintiff in
March of 2013 and wrote a letter outlining Plaintiff's
medical problems on September 18, 2014. AR 422-23, 550.
Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's decision to give
limited weight to the March 2013 and September 2014 opinions.
See Dkt. 13.
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)).
Joos completed a Physical Functional Evaluation of Plaintiff
on June 12, 2014. AR 579-81. Dr. Joos stated Plaintiff
suffered from left leg weakness, left foot drop, seizure
disorder, Raynaud's phenomenon, and pain in his left hip
and leg. AR 579. He opined Plaintiff's handling and
reaching is severely limited and Plaintiff must avoid
exposing his hands to cold temperatures due to Raynaud's
phenomenon. AR 580. Dr. Joos also found Plaintiff is severely
limited in his ability to stand, walk, lift, carry, push,
pull, and stoop because of his seizure disorder and left leg
and foot weakness. AR 580. He opined Plaintiff is unable to
meet the demands of sedentary work. AR 581.
discussed Dr. Joos' March 2013 and September 2014
opinions, explaining the weight given to these two opinions.
AR 29. Then, in considering Dr. ...