United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
CORYEL L. ADAMS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration,  Defendant.
AMENDED ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
W. Christel, United States Magistrate Judge.
filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C § 405(g),
seeking judicial review of the denial of Plaintiff's
applications for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI)
benefits. The parties have consented to proceed before a
United States Magistrate Judge. See 28 U.S.C. §
636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 and Local Magistrate Judge Rule MJR
13. See also Consent to Proceed before a United
States Magistrate Judge, Dkt. 6.
reviewing the record, the Court concludes the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred by failing to properly
evaluate the opinions of two examining psychologists, as well
as by improperly discounting Plaintiff's subjective
symptom testimony. Therefore, this matter is reversed and
remanded, pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), for further proceedings.
October 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI.
See Dkt. 11, Administrative Record
(“AR”) 133-41. Plaintiff alleges he became
disabled on March 1, 2012, due to posttraumatic stress
disorder (“PTSD”), high blood pressure, and back
and shoulder pain. See AR 133, 152. Plaintiff's
application was denied upon initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. See AR 46, 60. A hearing was
held before an ALJ on November 18, 2014, at which Plaintiff,
represented by counsel, appeared and testified. See
January 29, 2015, the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled
within the meaning of Sections 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social
Security Act. AR 19. Plaintiff's request for review of
the ALJ's decision was denied by the Appeals Council on
April 11, 2016, making that decision the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”). See AR 1, 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.981, § 416.1481. On June 15, 2016, Plaintiff
filed a complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of
the Commissioner's final decision.
argues the denial of benefits should be reversed and remanded
for further proceedings, because the ALJ erred by: 1)
improperly discounting the opinions of two examining
psychologists; and 2) improperly discounting Plaintiff's
subjective symptom testimony Dkt. 15 pp. 1-2.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits only 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 Cir. 1999)). “Substantial evidence” is
more than a scintilla, less than a preponderance, and is such
“‘relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'”
Magallanes v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 750 (9th Cir.
1989) (quoting Davis v. Heckler, 868 F.2d 323,
325-26 (9th Cir. 1989)).
Whether the ALJ Properly Evaluated the Medical Opinion
must provide “clear and convincing” reasons for
rejecting the uncontradicted opinion of either a treating or
examining physician or psychologist. 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)). However, “[i]n order to discount the opinion of
an examining physician in favor of the opinion of a
nonexamining medical advisor, the ALJ must set forth
specific, legitimate reasons that are supported by
substantial evidence in the record.” Nguyen v.
Chater, 100 F.3d 1462, 1466 (9th Cir. 1996) (citing
Lester, 81 F.3d at 831). 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, 881 F.2d at 751). In addition,
the ALJ must explain why the ALJ's own interpretations,
rather than those of the doctors, are correct.
Reddick, 157 F.3d at 725 (citing Embrey,
849 F.2d at 421-22). The ALJ “may not reject
‘significant probative evidence' without
explanation.” Flores v. Shalala, 49 F.3d 562,
570-71 (9th Cir. 1995) (quoting Vincent v. Heckler,
739 F.2d 1393, 1395 (9th Cir. 1984) (quoting Cotter v.
Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 706-07 (3d Cir. 1981))). The
“ALJ's written decision must state reasons for
disregarding [such] evidence.” Flores, 49 F.3d
Application of Standard