United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
KIMBERLY A. DYER, Dyer,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendants.
ORDER AFFIRMING DEFENDANT'S DECISION TO DENY
Theresa L. Fricke United States Magistrate Judge.
A. Dyer brought this matter for judicial review of the
Commissioner of Social Security's denial of her
application for supplemental security income (SSI) 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 affirms the
Commissioner's decision to deny benefits.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
January 22, 2013, Ms. Dyer filed an application for SSI
benefits, alleging that she became disabled beginning January
1, 2000. Dkt. 9, Administrative Record (AR) 19. That
application was denied on initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. Id. A hearing was held before an
administrative law judge (ALJ), at which Ms. Dyer appeared
and testified, as did her husband and a vocational expert. AR
written decision dated December 1, 2014, the ALJ found that
Ms. Dyer could perform her past relevant work, and in the
alternative that she could perform other jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy, and therefore
that she was not disabled. AR 19-39. Ms. Dyer's request
for review was denied by the Appeals Council on June 16,
2016, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. AR 1-4; 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481. Ms. Dyer
then appealed that decision in a complaint filed with this
Court on August 24, 2016. Dkt. 3; 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.
Dyer seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand for
further administrative proceedings, arguing the ALJ erred:
(1) in evaluating the opinion evidence from Kimberly Wheeler,
Ph.D., Phyllis Sanchez, Ph.D., Benjamin Aleshire, Ph.D.,
Craig Teveliet, M.D., Larry Harris, M.A., Jodi Taylor, M.A.,
and Casilda Jennings-Vigil, ARNP;
(2) in discounting Ms. Dyer's credibility;
(3) in considering her husband's lay testimony; and
(4) in assessing her residual functional capacity (RFC).
reasons set forth below, however, the Court disagrees that
the ALJ erred as alleged, and therefore affirms the decision
to deny benefits.
Court must uphold an ALJ's determination that a claimant
is not disabled if the ALJ applied “proper legal
standards” in weighing the evidence and making the
determination 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) (citing
Brawner v. Sec'y of Health and Human Sers., 839
F.2d 432, 433 (9th Cir. 1987)). Substantial 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. “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).
Court will thus uphold the ALJ's findings “if
supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the
record.” Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193. “If
the evidence admits of more than one rational interpretation,
” the ALJ's interpretation must be upheld.
Allen v. Heckler, 749 F.2d 577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984).
“Where there is conflicting evidence sufficient to
support either outcome, ” the Court “must affirm
the decision actually made.” Allen, 749 F.2d
at 579 (quoting Rhinehart v. Finch, 438 F.2d 920,
921 (9th Cir. 1971)).
The ALJ's Evaluation of the Medical and Other Opinion
is responsible for determining credibility and resolving
ambiguities and conflicts in the medical evidence.
Reddick v. Chater, 157 F.3d 715, 722 (9th Cir.
1998). If the evidence is inconclusive, “questions of
credibility and resolution of conflicts are functions solely
of the [ALJ].” Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d
639, 642 (9th Cir. 1982). In such situations, “the
ALJ's conclusion must be upheld.” Morgan v.
Comm'r of the Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 601
(9th Cir. 1999). Determining whether inconsistencies in the
evidence “are material (or are in fact inconsistencies
at all) and whether certain factors are relevant to
discount” medical opinions “falls within this
responsibility.” Id. at 603.
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 “significant probative evidence has
been rejected.” Id.; see also Cotter v.
Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 706-07 (3rd Cir. 1981);
Garfield v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 605, 610 (7th Cir.
general, more weight is given to a treating physician's
opinion than to the opinions of those who do not treat the
claimant. See Lester, 81 F.3d at 830. On the other
hand, an ALJ need not accept the opinion of a treating
physician “if that opinion is brief, conclusory, and
inadequately supported by clinical findings” or
“by the record as a whole.” Batson v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 359 F.3d 1190, 1195 (9th
Cir. 2004); see also Thomas v. Barnhart, 278 F.3d
947, 957 (9th Cir. 2002); Tonapetyan v. Halter, 242
F.3d 1144, 1149 (9th Cir. 2001). An examining physician's
opinion is “entitled to greater weight than the opinion
of a nonexamining physician.” Lester, 81 F.3d
at 830-31. A nonexamining physician's opinion may
constitute substantial evidence if “it is consistent
with other independent evidence in the record.”
Id. at 830-31; Tonapetyan, 242 F.3d at
Opinion Evidence from ...