Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Yirgu v. Berryhill

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

September 13, 2017

MICHAEL GIZACHWE YIRGU, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRIAN A. TSUCHIDA, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Michael Gizachwe Yirgu seeks review of denial of his Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) application. He contends the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in evaluating the opinions of treating psychiatrist, David Rowlett, M.D., examining psychologist Wayne Dees, Psy.D., and reviewing psychologist John Gilbert, Ph.D. He further contends that remand for further proceedings is necessary to consider new evidence submitted to the Appeals Council which undermines the ALJ's mental residual functional capacity assessment. Dkt. 11. As discussed below, the Court recommends the case be REVERSED and REMANDED for further administrative proceedings under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         BACKGROUND

         Mr. Yirgu is 43 years old, completed the 11th grade, is able to read and write English “okay”, and has never had a driver's license. Tr. 59-60. Mr. Yirgu grew up in Ethiopia and Kenya during various civil wars and came to the United States when he was 14 or 15 and has been diagnosed with PTSD as a result. Tr. 56-57. He has worked as a metal sheet cutter, a seafood processor, and busboy. Tr. 60-62.

         Mr. Yirgu filed his application for SSI disability benefits on April 2, 2014, alleging disability beginning January 1, 2008. Tr. 12. At the hearing, he amended his alleged onset date of April 2, 2014, the filing date of his application on the grounds that he cannot receive SSI benefits before that date. Tr. 55. On December 31, 2013, ALJ Gordon Griggs issued a decision finding Mr. Yirgu not disabled. Tr. 12-30. Mr. Yirgu requested review, which was denied by the Appeals Council on February 17, 2017. Tr. 1-5.

         Utilizing the five-step disability evaluation process, [1] the ALJ found Mr. Yirgu's severe impairments included “alcohol dependence, cocaine dependence; depressive disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; sleep apnea; status post left leg degloving injury with skin grafting infections, and edema; and post-traumatic arthritis of the left wrist.” Tr. 14. The ALJ found when his substance use was considered in combination with his other impairments, Mr. Yirgu was disabled because he had marked difficulties with social functioning and concentration, persistence, or pace but without consideration of substance use, Mr. Yirgu would have only mild difficulties in these same areas. Tr. 16, 19-20. The ALJ concluded Mr. Yirgu's substance use is a “contributing factor material to the determination of disability” because absent the substance use, Mr. Yirgu would not be disabled. Tr. 30.

         The ALJ found further that absent consideration of substance use, Mr. Yirgu had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(a), except that he can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, but can frequently climb ramps and stairs, and is further limited to frequent kneeling, crouching, crawling, handling, and fingering. Additional limitations include occasional exposure to extreme cold, vibration, and pulmonary irritants, such as dust, fumes, odors, gases, and poor ventilation. Finally, the ALJ found that even if Mr. Yirgu stopped the substance abuse, he would be limited to tasks that can be learned in 30 days or less, that involve no more than simple, work-related decisions and few workplace changes. Tr. 20-21.

         Given these limitations, the ALJ found Mr. Yirgu was unable to perform his past relevant work, Tr. 28, but that considering his age (41-43) and education (limited); he was able to perform sedentary, unskilled work, including: (1) call-out operator (of which there are approximately 258, 000 jobs nationally and 1, 062 in Washington); (2) charge account clerk (of which there are approximately 200, 150 such jobs nationally and 4, 220 in Washington state); and, (3) table worker, of which there are approximately 100, 300 such jobs nationally and 6, 970 in Washington state). The ALJ found that these jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy. Tr. 29.

         DISCUSSION

         A. The ALJ Failed to Properly Consider Medical Opinions in Determining Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity

         An ALJ should generally give more weight to the opinion of a treating doctor than to that of a non-treating doctor, and more weight to the opinion of an examining doctor than to that of a non-examining doctor. Lester v. Chater, 81 F.3d 821, 830 (9th Cir. 1996). The ALJ must give specific and legitimate reasons for rejecting a treating or examining doctor's opinion that is contradicted by another doctor, and clear and convincing reasons for rejecting a treating or examining doctor's uncontradicted opinion. Id. at 830-31. Mr. Yirgu argues that although the ALJ considered the opinions of treating psychiatrist David Rowlett, M.D., examining psychologist Wayne Dees, Psy.D., and reviewing psychologist John Gilbert, Ph.D., all of which were not contradicted, the ALJ failed to give clear and convincing reasons for rejecting them.

         1. David Rowlett, M.D.

         Dr. Rowlett is Mr. Yirgu's treating psychiatrist at Community Psychiatric Clinic. Mr. Yirgu has been a psychiatric patient at the clinic since 2008 and has been treated for major depressive disorder, PTSD, and alcohol and cocaine addiction. The record contains monthly treatment notes from Dr. Rowlett beginning in February 2014. Tr. 586.

         In his September 2015 report, Dr. Rowlett opined Mr. Yirgu could not perform the following work functions on a regular, reliable or sustained basis: (1) understand, remember and carry out detailed instructions; and (2) accept instructions and respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors. Tr. 715-16. He further opined Mr. Yirgu could perform the following tasks or functions, but would have noticeable difficulty (i.e., be unproductive and distracted from job activity) more than 20 percent of the work day or work week (i.e., more than one hour and up to two hours per day or one-half to one day per week) in: remembering locations and work-like procedures; understanding and remembering very short, simple instructions; maintaining attention and concentration for extended periods of time; performing activities within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and/or being punctual within customary tolerances; working in coordination with or proximity to others without being distracted by them; completing a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychological based symptoms and performing at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods; getting along with coworkers or peers without distracting them or exhibiting ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.