United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge.
Lisa Lee Leonard filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), for judicial review of Defendant's denial
of her application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73 and Local Rule MJR 13, the
parties have consented to have this matter heard by the
undersigned Magistrate Judge. See Dkt. 5.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred when he
failed to properly consider a portion of Dr. Enid
Griffin's opinion. Had the ALJ properly considered Dr.
Griffin's entire opinion, he may have found Plaintiff
disabled during the relevant period. The ALJ's error is
therefore harmful, and this matter is reversed and remanded
pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) for further proceedings
consistent with this Order.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
October 29, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI,
alleging disability as of November 30, 2010. See
Dkt. 7, Administrative Record (“AR”)
The application was denied on initial administrative review
and reconsideration. See AR 12. A hearing was held
before ALJ Robert P. Kingsley on August 11, 2015.
See AR 101-30. In a decision dated September 25,
2015, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was disabled as of August
26, 2015; however, he found Plaintiff was not disabled prior
to this date. AR 12-35. Plaintiff's request for review of
the ALJ's decision was denied by the Appeals Council,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. See AR 1-5; 20 C.F.R. § 404.981,
Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ committed harmful
error when he failed to properly consider the medical opinion
of Dr. Enid Griffin, Psy.D. Dkt. 9, p. 1.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court may set aside the
Commissioner's denial of social security benefits 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
Whether the ALJ properly considered the medical opinion
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) (citing Embrey v. Bowen, 849
F.2d 418, 422 (9th Cir. 1988); Pitzer v. Sullivan,
908 F.2d 502, 506 (9th Cir. 1990)). When a treating or
examining physician's opinion is contradicted, the
opinion can be rejected “for specific and legitimate
reasons that are supported by substantial evidence in the
record.” Lester, 81 F.3d at 830-31 (citing
Andrews v. Shalala, 53 F.3d 1035, 1043 (9th Cir. 1995);
Murray v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 499, 502 (9th Cir.
1983)). 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 v.
Bowen, 881 F.2d 747, 751 (9th Cir. 1989)).
ALJ errs when he rejects a medical opinion or assigns it
little weight while doing nothing more than ignoring it,
asserting without explanation that another medical opinion is
more persuasive, or criticizing it with boilerplate language
that fails to offer a substantive basis for his
conclusion.” Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995,
1012-13 (9th Cir. 2014) (citing Nguyen v. Chater,
100 F.3d 1462, 1464 (9th Cir.1996)). As the Ninth Circuit has
To say that medical opinions are not supported by sufficient
objective findings or are contrary to the preponderant
conclusions mandated by the objective findings does not
achieve the level of specificity our prior cases have
required, even when the objective factors are listed
seriatim. The ALJ must do more than offer his conclusions. He
must set forth ...