United States District Court, W.D. Washington
JACQUELINE K. HAMILTON JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING CASE FOR FURTHER
C. COUGHENOUR United States District Judge
K. Hamilton Johnson seeks review of the denial of her
application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB). Ms. Johnson contends the
ALJ erred in evaluating the medical opinions of: (1) Jamie
Phifer, M.D.; (2) Jennifer Azen, M.D.; and, (3) Jay
Wellington, M.S.W. Dkt. 12. Ms. Johnson contends these errors
resulted in a residual functional capacity (RFC)
determination that failed to account for all of her
limitations. Id. Ms. Johnson contends this matter
should be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Dkt.
12 at 18. As discussed below, the Court REVERSES the
Commissioner's final decision and REMANDS the matter for
further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
December 2012, Ms. Johnson applied for benefits, alleging
disability as of November 29, 2012. Tr. 14, 217-226. Ms.
Johnson's applications were denied initially and on
reconsideration. Tr. 14, 144-147, 151-155. After the ALJ
conducted a hearing on March 17, 2014, the ALJ issued a
decision finding Ms. Johnson not disabled. Tr. 14-27.
the five-step disability evaluation process,  the ALJ found:
Step one: Ms. Johnson has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 29, 2012, the alleged onset date.
Step two: Ms. Johnson has the following severe impairments:
major depressive disorder vs. depressive disorder; anxiety
disorder; history of bilateral rotator cuff tears,
status-post distal clavicle excision of right shoulder and
bilateral open acromioplasties; and cervical degenerative
Step three: These impairments do not meet or equal the
requirements of a listed impairment.
Residual Functional Capacity: Ms. Johnson can perform light
work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b)
except she cannot reach overhead. Ms. Johnson cannot climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, or crawl. She should avoid
concentrated exposure to vibrations and hazards. She can
perform simple, routine tasks and follow short simple
instructions. Ms. Johnson can do work that needs little or no
judgment and can perform simple duties that can be learned on
the job in a short period. Ms. Johnson would have an average
ability to perform sustained work activities (i.e. can
maintain attention and concentration; persistence and pace)
in an ordinary work setting on a regular and continuing basis
(i.e., 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week, or an equivalent
work schedule) within customary tolerances of employers rules
regarding sick leave and absence. Ms. Johnson needs a work
environment that is predictable and with few work setting
Step four: Ms. Johnson cannot perform past relevant work.
Step five: As there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Ms. Johnson can perform,
she is not disabled.
Tr. 14-27. The Appeals Council denied Ms. Johnson's
request for review making the ALJ's decision the
Commissioner's final decision. Tr. 1-6.
Medical Opinion Evidence
general, more weight should be given to the opinion of a
treating physician than to a non-treating physician, and more
weight to the opinion of an examining physician than to a
nonexamining physician. See Lester v. Chater, 81
F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1995). Where a treating or examining
doctor's opinion is not contradicted by another doctor,
it may be rejected only for clear and convincing reasons.
Id. Where contradicted, a treating or examining
physician's opinion may not be rejected without
“specific and legitimate reasons supported by
substantial evidence in the record for so doing.”
Id. at 830-31. “An ALJ can satisfy the
‘substantial evidence' requirement by
‘setting out a detailed and thorough summary of the
facts and conflicting clinical evidence, stating his
interpretation thereof, and making findings.'”
Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1011 (9th Cir.
2014) (quoting Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 725
(9th Cir. 1998)). In order to reject the opinion of a
provider who is not an acceptable medical source, the ALJ