United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS DKT. #3
B. Leighton United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff Warren's
Complaint [Dkt. 3] for review of the Social Security
Commissioner's denial of her applications for disability
insurance and supplemental security income benefits.
suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, anxiety,
affective disorder, and substance addiction. See
Dkt. 7, Administrative Record 15. She applied for disability
insurance and SSI benefits in November 2013, alleging she
became disabled in June 2010. See AR 13. Those
applications were denied upon initial administrative review
and on reconsideration. See id. A hearing was held
before Administrative Law Judge Kelly Wilson in June 2015.
See id. Warren, represented by a non-attorney
representative, appeared and testified, as did a vocational
expert. See AR 39-87.
determined Warren not to be disabled. See AR 10-38.
The Appeals Council denied Warren's request for review,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security. See AR 1-7; 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481. In January 2017,
Warren filed a complaint seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision. See Dkt. 3.
argues the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits
should be reversed and remanded for an immediate award of
benefits or for further administrative proceedings because
the ALJ erred in evaluating the medical evidence in the
record, Warren's testimony, and the lay witness
testimony, and therefore in finding at step five of the
sequential evaluation process that Warren could perform work
available in the national economy.
Commissioner argues the ALJ did not err in evaluating the
medical evidence, Warren's testimony, or the lay witness
testimony, so the ALJ's finding that Warren was not
disabled was supported by substantial evidence and should be
Commissioner's determination that a claimant is not
disabled must be upheld by the Court if the Commissioner
applied the “proper legal standards” and if
“substantial evidence in the record as a whole
supports” that determination. See Hoffman v.
Heckler, 785 F.2d 1423, 1425 (9th Cir. 1986); see
also Batson v. Comm'r, 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 will, nevertheless, be set
aside if the proper legal standards were not applied in
weighing the evidence and making the decision.”)
(citing Brawner v. Sec'y 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 Medical Evidence in the Record.
determines credibility and resolves ambiguities and conflicts
in the medical evidence. See Reddick v. Chater, 157
F.3d 715, 722 (9th Cir. 1998). Where the medical evidence in
the record is not conclusive, “questions of credibility
and resolution of conflicts” are solely the functions
of the ALJ. Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639, 642
(9th Cir. 1982). In such cases, “the ALJ's
conclusion must be upheld.” Morgan v. Comm'r,
Soc. Sec. Admin., 169 F.3d 595, 601 (9th Cir. 1999).
Determining whether inconsistencies in the medical evidence
“are material (or are in fact inconsistencies at all)
and whether certain factors are relevant to discount”
the opinions of medical experts “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 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 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. In general, more
weight is given to a treating or examining physician's
opinion than to the opinions of those who do not examine the
claimant. See Id. at 830.
argues the ALJ erred by failing to give a specific and
legitimate reason supported by substantial evidence to
discount the opinion of evaluating psychologist ...