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Kiser v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

June 22, 2017

KATHLEEN A. KISER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

          ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS

          Theresa L. Fricke United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Kathleen A. Kiser has brought this matter for judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of her applications for disability insurance and 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. Because the ALJ erred in failing to fully consider Ms. Kiser's Interstitial Cystitis (IC) and in discounting her credibility, the Court finds that the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits should be reversed, and that this matter should be remanded to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 29, 2013, Ms. Kiser filed an application for disability insurance benefits and another one for SSI benefits, alleging in both applications that she became disabled beginning June 8, 2013. Dkt. 9, Administrative Record (AR) 20. Her applications were denied on initial administrative review and on reconsideration. Id. On March 10, 2015, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ), at which Ms. Kiser appeared and testified as did a vocational expert. AR 41-94.

         In a decision dated June 17, 2015, the ALJ found that Ms. Kiser could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy and therefore that she was not disabled. AR 20-34. Ms. Kiser's request for review was denied by the Appeals Council on October 21, 2016, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner, which plaintiff then appealed in a complaint filed with this Court on November 30, 2016. AR 1; Dkt. 3; 20 C.F.R. § 404.981, § 416.1481.

         Ms. Kiser seeks reversal of the ALJ's decision and remand for further administrative proceedings, arguing the ALJ erred in failing to:

(1) fully consider Ms. Kiser's IC and the combined effects of her impairments and resulting limitations;
(2) provide clear and convincing reasons for discounting Ms. Kiser's credibility; and
(3) properly assess the medical opinion evidence in the record.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the ALJ erred in failing to fully consider Ms. Kiser's IC and in discounting her credibility, and therefore in finding her to be disabled. Remand for further consideration of those issues is thus warranted.

         DISCUSSION

         The 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 “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.

         The Commissioner's findings will be upheld “if supported by inferences reasonably drawn from the record.” Batson, 359 F.3d at 1193. Substantial evidence requires the Court to determine whether the Commissioner's determination 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, ” that decision must be upheld. Allen v. Heckler, 749 F.2d 577, 579 (9th Cir. 1984). That is, “[w]here 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)).

         I. The ALJ's Evaluation of Ms. Kiser's ...


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