United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DEFENDANT'S
DECISION TO DENY BENEFITS
W. Christel United States Magistrate Judge.
Welileh Olivar filed this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), for judicial review of Defendant's denial
of Plaintiff's application for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”). 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. 6.
considering the record, the Court concludes the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred when she
failed to provide specific and legitimate reasons, supported
by substantial evidence, for giving limited weight to the
medical opinion evidence. Had the ALJ properly considered the
medical opinion evidence, the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) may have included additional limitations.
The ALJ's error is therefore not harmless, 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
September 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB,
alleging disability as of January 8, 2013. See Dkt.
9, Administrative Record (“AR”) 12. The
application was denied upon initial administrative review and
on reconsideration. See AR 12. A hearing was held
before ALJ Kimberly Boyce on August 10, 2015. AR 27-85. In a
decision dated September 25, 2015, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff to be not disabled. AR 12-22. 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 1-3; 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.981, § 416.1481.
Plaintiff's Opening Brief, Plaintiff maintains the ALJ
erred by: (1) failing to provide specific and legitimate
reasons to reject the opinions of treating physician, Dr.
Thomas Patamia, M.D., and examining physician, Dr. Alicia
Jorgenson, M.D.; (2) assigning improper weight to the opinion
of non-examining medical source, Dr. John Robinson, Ph.D.;
(3) failing to provide clear and convincing reasons to reject
Plaintiff's testimony; and (4) failing to meet her burden
at Step Five of the sequential evaluation process. Dkt. 11,
pp. 1, 3-17.
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
first argues the ALJ failed to provide specific and
legitimate reasons, supported by substantial evidence, to
reject evidence from Plaintiff's (1) treating behavioral
health physician, Dr. Patamia; and (2) examining physician,
Dr. Jorgenson. Dkt. 11, pp. 3-11.
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 Pitzer v. Sullivan, 908
F.2d 502, 506 (9th Cir. 1990); Embrey v. Bowen, 849
F.2d 418, 422 (9th Cir. 1988)). 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 [her] 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)).
maintains the ALJ erred when she rejected the limitations
assessed by treating physician, Dr. Patamia. Dkt. 11, pp.
Patamia provided Plaintiff with behavioral mental health
treatment. See AR 372-81, 387-88 (treatment notes);
see also AR 448-50, 464-66 (mental health reports).
Dr. Patamia opined Plaintiff has severe social anxiety and
severe body dysmorphic disorder, and exhibits “severe
avoidance behaviors due to intense anxiety [and] panic
attacks.” AR 450, 465. Consequently, Dr. Patamia opined
Plaintiff has limitations in several areas of work-related
activities, including a serious limitation in her ability to
sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision. AR
449, 465. Dr. Patamia further found Plaintiff “[u]nable
to meet competitive standards” in her ability to work
in coordination with or proximity to others, perform at a
consistent pace without unreasonable rest periods, set
realistic goals or make plans independently, and interact
appropriately with the general public. AR 449-50, 465-66. Dr.
Patamia also determined Plaintiff had “[n]o useful
ability to function” in her punctuality and ability to
maintain regular ...